One-on-One With Coach Croom

MSU head football coach Sylvester Croom talks about the recent success of his program and how it has affected him personally and also how it has affected recruiting.

A former SEC head football coach told a friend of mine that he has great admiration of you and the way you are running the MSU football program. He said not only will the players you are bringing in become good fathers and husbands, but also be the type players that will give back to this university. Do you agree with that statement?
"Yeah. Everything that we do is for the long range. The thing that is important to me is every decision that we make is all about the players. This is a college. To me, the purpose of a college, particularly from a coaching standpoint, is preparing your players to compete in life and be able to win. What that means is being able to go out in the job market and secure a job that will provide for them and their families. To be able to equip them with all the tools necessary to go out in life, make a living, enjoy what they do, and be able to be a success. That's what it's all about. The winning of the games is secondary to me.

"But I believe if you do a good job recruiting and you do right by those players as far as preparing them for the long-term, then you are going to get good athletes. And if you get good athletes you are going to win games. If you mistreat your players you aren't going to be able to get good players. I don't care how good of a football coach you are, you aren't going to win football games if you do that.

"And I also think that if the players know that we care about them as people, other than them just as athletes, then all that goes into creating an environment that good athletes and good people will want to be a part of."

During our conversation with fullback Eric Hoskins in our Outside the Helmet segment, he talked about looking forward to getting a good job, coming back to MSU's Homecoming and help your program later on by giving if he can.
"There is no question that Jerious Norwood is one of those type guys. He's always told me, 'Coach, the first chance I get I want to help.' David Stewart is another one of those guys. There is no question that the guys who leave here, once they get established in life, they want to help this university because it means a great deal to them. And I think the past few years, particularly this season, the guys that are seniors now, regardless of how everything turns out this year, I think the way they have enjoyed it it will mean a lot to them later on. And they will be very loyal alumni. You can include walk-ons in that. A lot of those guys may never play, but a lot of them will become very influential and valuable alumni for not only the program but for the entire university."

How has coaching changed for you this year now that you have enough athletes to compete on an even level. And, especially, what are the nights like? Are you able to actually enjoy going home and not stay awake worrying about the upcoming games?
"This is the first year since I've been here that I've had fun. The first three years I felt like I was running a marathon. There were a lot of sleepless nights. Now, I go home and read the newspaper or read a book at night."

I've also noticed that you actually smile more now.
"Well, I'm happy. I think I'm a lot more social. I'm being me and living my life now. Whereas, for three years I have operated with blinders on. In fact, I think I've been a robot for three years. And it hasn't been a whole lot of fun. And again, that is why I was very reluctant to take on this task because I knew for at least three years that was the way it was going to have to be. It's been tough on me, my family, and the players who have been here. There was no easy way to get it done so you get to this point with a lot of pain and suffering on the part of a lot of people."

With the success of your program this year, how has that affected prospects' feelings toward your program?
"All year long, and going into the season, it has been a lot more positive. But as the season has gone along, it has been a whole lot easier calling prospects. When our guys go out on the road, the reception in the state and outside of the state has been tremendous, even in the Florida area.

"The success that Wesley Carroll has had here is really going to open up some doors in Florida. There is no question about that because Wes is very respected in that area. He wasn't on any blue chip or five-star lists, but the people in the Fort Lauderdale area knew he was a winner. And they have a great deal of respect for him. In fact, we hope we can get two of his teammates up here because that is very, very good football down there. And I sure hope we can get some of those guys to come here and be part of our team."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by email at

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