While the rain poured throughout the central and northern parts of Mississippi, fans of Mississippi State made their way to Pearl, Mississippi and the Rankin County campus of Hinds Community College to see their Bulldogs. The 42nd annual central Mississippi alumni and friends extravaganza provided fans both young and old the chance to visit with a collection of football players and several Mississippi State coaches.
After the autograph and picture portion of the evening concluded, Mississippi State athletics director John Cohen took the stage to reflect on the successes of the Maroon and White during the past academic year. Needless to say, Cohen had plenty to boast about.
Mississippi State enjoyed seeing a school record 13 athletic programs advance to the post season including the Bulldogs' 9th consecutive bowl trip. The Diamond Dawgs made back to back trips to the College World Series for just the second time in school history and appear poised for a run at a third. Mississippi State women's hoops won the SEC for the second straight season and clinched the program's first ever SEC tournament title. All-World tennis star Nuno Borges helped lead the men's tennis team to back to back men's conference tournament championships as well.
A collection of the season's hardware was available for picture taking opportunities should fans feel so obliged. In addition to those trophies that will remain in the Bulldog trophy case forever was the Golden Egg beaming as the centerpiece of year round conversation. State fans are hopeful that particular trophy stays home for a spell.
The evening was not all about athletics. Mississippi State president Mark Keenum spent a portion of the program sharing good news about advancements in research at Mississippi State. As a top ten agricultural giant research school, Mississippi State continues to be among the world leaders on several fronts including super computers and unmanned aviation.
The three hour event was simply a celebration of all things Maroon and fans appeared prepared to stay the entire evening. Of immediate interest was the upcoming football season. Coach Joe Moorhead spent time shaking hands and smiling for pictures before taking the stage to update the crowd on the football front. Moorhead shared that having the chance to plug back into Bulldog family is always an important undertaking.
"This is critically important, because Mississippi State has one of the more passionate fan bases if not the most passionate in the entire country," Moorhead said. "To be able to sit down and look a person in the eye, shake their hand and ask about them about how their summer is going and sign some things for them is something that makes Mississippi State special."
While Moorhead is looking to take his second turn through the grind of an SEC schedule, Bulldog baseball coach Chris Lemonis is finishing up his first year of State service. The Diamond Dawgs entered the season with high expectations and the program hit just about every milestone along the way in a season that ended in Omaha.
What a year it has been for Lemonis and the Mississippi State program. Fans who thought the Bulldog skipper was enjoying a break and some summer vacation need to think again.
"It's a hectic time of year for a baseball coach," Lemonis explained. "We got back from Omaha and today was the first day that I have seen (Jake) Gautreau and (Scott) Foxhall since we got back. We have camps going on and we have recruiting going on, but an event like this is special for all of our programs. Our fan base is so instrumental to our success, so getting out and getting in front of them is huge.
"It was great last year coming down here as the new coach, but this year after having some success is great. Knowing a little bit about our fan base, it's been great. It gives us an idea of what we are moving into in the future. We have some many great programs here, so it's a real neat atmosphere. Our fans have been great all night."
Prior to arrival at the Clyde Muse Center, a collection of Mississippi State football players that included quarterbacks Tommy Stevens and Keytaon Thompson along with star running back Kylin Hill spent some time at the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children. Reports are that Bulldog big men Chauncey Rivers and Darryl Williams colored between the lines and likely won the coloring contest, but everyone involved walked a way with the smile of victory.
Moorhead spent some time playing games with the children and found himself bested in connect four more than once by a patient who supports a rival team of Moorhead's beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. Being a good sport, the Bulldog head coach gave the victor a gift that will last a lifetime.
"To me it's all about perspective. Our guys have a chance to be a part of an SEC football program and I have the opportunity to be a head coach," Moorhead shared. "You may think you're having a bad day or a bad practice or do bad on a test. All of that pales in comparison to what some of those young boys and girls are going through. Anything we can do to uplift their spirits and help them feel better, we want to do.
"Heck, the kid that beat me in connect four is a huge (Baltimore) Ravens fan. I called John Harbaugh and the kid got to talk to Coach Harbaugh on the phone. Things like that are part of the reason we do what we do. I tried to flip him to the Steelers, but it didn't work."
Mississippi State will begin fall football camp on August 2nd as they prepare for the season opener against the Ragin' Cajuns of Louisiana in the Superdome.