Monday morning, the first day of classes at Mississippi State began. Monday evening, all 400-plus of MSU’s student-athletes (emphasis on student tonight) met in Humphrey Coliseum for their annual gathering, a beginning-of-the-year orientation of sorts.
Baseball, tennis, football, basketball, golf and everyone else filed into The Hump to come together, all of them, at least once, and hear from athletics director Scott Stricklin and this year’s speaker, Tyson Lee.
“We completed one of if not the best years in Mississippi State history,” Stricklin said. “But this weekend, the soccer team hits the field and it’s a blank slate.”
This wasn’t a time for remembrance of successes in the past year, but of preparation for even more wins and titles in the coming 11 months.
Introduced by Stricklin, Lee is a former MSU quarterback, who is now working with the campus FCA after a year with the St. Louis Rams of the NFL.
The starting signal-caller in Mullen’s first year, Lee won’t soon be forgotten for those around the Maroon and White, particularly me. He was the first player I ever interviewed, and while I was unaware at the time, I couldn’t have ended up with a better person.
I was nervous then, but he wasn’t tonight as he addressed the gathering of Bulldogs.
“I’ve been there,” he said. “I know what it’s like.”
A former student-athlete working with current student-athletes, he absolutely does know.
An example comes in a story he told, when one day as a player in the offseason he came in under the weight he was supposed to be. Strength coach Matt Balis worked with him to make sure he got there, as he didn’t have far to go.
“I made two PB&Js and put them in the fridge with a glass of milk,” Lee remembered. “I set my alarm for 2 a.m., got up and ate the sandwiches and drank the milk. Then I did it again at 5 a.m. And I made weight.”
Lee’s message to his fellow Bulldogs was both direct and appropriate, as he appointed a lesson to each letter in the word Bulldawgs.
- B- Balance
- U- Unselfishness
- L – Leadership
- L- Leave a lasting legacy
- D- Discipline
- A- Accountability
- W- Work hard
- G- Grind for your state
- S- Seize your opportunity
With each letter, Lee had a more detailed message than noted above, but for the risk of diluting his words with my mis-remembrance, I’ll leave them as they are.
But much of his message came from his initial question to MSU’s student-athletes: what is your purpose?
“Dreams are great,” Lee said. “But purpose defines who you are. Dreams can disappear.”
Lee went on to talk about his time with the Rams, when he drove players who had been cut from the team to the airport.
“I’d always ask them, ‘What’s next?'”
Stricklin returned to the podium, echoing Lee’s sentiments, before offering a fond farewell.
“There’s free ice cream in the concourse,” Stricklin announced. “Hail State.”