I came back for Super BullDog Weekend last week. Yes it’s tough sometimes dropping things at home and going back “Home”. I never regret doing so and this time was no different.
Coming back I traveled the same roads I traveled 35 years ago and most of them have changed little. Highway 82 from Prattville, AL to Tuscaloosa still isn’t a four lane road all the way just like it still isn’t finished between Tuscaloosa and Columbus. More of it is completed on both sections but hey it has been 35 years and still it is “under construction?”
By the time I made it to downtown Starkville, the parade for our magnificent ladies team was underway. I watched and waved then turned onto main heading to campus before going to the hotel to check in. It has grown up through Main street. but that old two-story brick duplex that I rented a room in many years ago is still there just as it was. It belonged to J. B. Vanlandingham back then, now, I’m not so sure. Beside it was the “Pi Rutabaga” house (that’s another story for another time). It is just up the street from that “new looking” Catholic church, it was old looking back then.
Also beside that was the “Pizza Inn” which had great pizza when you had been studying for hours or partying for hours and couldn’t (shouldn’t) be driving anywhere. Past my old “pad” was a laundromat where I met several young ladies. Now that area is the “Cotton District?” with all those mini houses and sidewalk cafes?
I thought back to where Hunter Cohern’s Big Star use to be, where I worked at to help support myself while going to school. His son, Steve Cohern pretty much ran the place among “other things” but it was like family working there. It’s all gone now but other things have built in it’s place.
Basketball was pretty good back then with Wiley Peck and crew winning a lot of games even knocking off #1 Kentucky one night when the “Hump” was shaking. Baseball was winning an awful lot also, football..not so much but there was a beat down of Florida St. and beating #1 Alabama in Jackson with John Bond, Johnnie Cooks, Glen Collins and more. I also remember watching Dave Marler throwing balls all over Legion Field against Alabama. The late Bo Myrick (Laurel, MS) told me about drawing up plays in the dirt inside the huddle that day and laughing about it.
We had a very beautiful campus and well known school back then and some athletic achievements. That was the past though, this is now. We are in an “Age of The Dawgs” and those who lived through the past are soaking it in completely. We are so freaking proud of the leadership of our institution, athletics and research leadership. There isn’t much that we are not excelling at now in the life of our beloved STATE. While achieving so much we haven’t fallen prey to greed and repugnant behavior like Baylor and others. Our STATE was and still is FAMILY.
I went to a softball game, two baseball games and the Maroon-White spring game. I talked to several Kentucky fans who were in town for the series and the parents of one of South Carolina’s softball players who drove down to see her play. All of them spoke of how warm and welcoming StarkVegas was to them, how beautiful the campus is and how impressed they were by attendance at softball and baseball. Both facilities were outstanding to them. I also met and talked with the dad of one of our rising stars on the football team.
Erroll Thompson (Sr.) had drove in with three of his friends from Florence, AL. His son (Erroll Jr. 6’1” 250lbs.) is a red-shirt freshman linebacker majoring in agriculture. We talked for a while outside our hotel. Erroll (Sr.) shared that his son had offers from other schools but that State just felt right to him and that he is thrilled with his choice to be a State man. He assured his dad that he hasn’t missed a class and that the coaches DO check on their attendance regularly. Dad said he is still “feeling” his way around town but is really impressed by Starkville and how his son is coached and encouraged in his sport and academics. He told me he plans to try to get his daughter to MSU as well.
I have seen the new recruits we have coming in several sports as well as the young men who played during the spring game. I have to say I believe that even brighter days are ahead in all sports and in our university. We all need to do the best we can to support our STATE. Leaving a legacy of excellence in all aspects of our beloved STATE is our responsibility and duty.
I am proud of where we have been, of where we are now and can’t wait to see where our leadership, coaching, athletes and graduates take us in the future.