At left guard for Mississippi State is senior Gabe Jackson, the clean-cut All-American father-figure on the offensive line.
Next to him at center is long-haired and tattoo-covered Dillon Day, one of the top centers in the nation and the locker room prankster.
To his side is right guard Ben Beckwith, a former walk-on with wild hair and a deep-woods beard reminiscent of something from Duck Commander or a Mossy Oak commercial.
Beckwith and Day live together, while Jackson is over every day, watching TV or making stupid videos.
“We’re always laid back in the recliner playing video games or something,” Beckwith said, “and Dillon is always the one over there taking snapchats of himself and saying, ‘Hey let’s go do this, let’s make a video.’”
“We gotta get famous on this Vine,” Day remembers telling them.
The three who have been friends for years are now starters together, assuming their positions at different times over the last several seasons, and their chemistry helps both themselves and their teammates.
Their cutting up isn’t limited to the house after practice, as Jackson said Day will regularly crack jokes in his ear right before the snap in a game, while Beckwith said they have a habit of making fun of each other (and everyone else) in practice for any and everything they can think of.
“The fact that people like them allows them to be leaders,” Dan Mullen said. “It’s showing that you can have a lot of fun while you’re doing what you’re doing. That’s important for a lot of kids to realize, that they should be having fun.”
The friendship, however, started in a decidedly not-fun manner in Day’s freshman year during two-a-days in the fall, his first experience with the grueling work and heat required to play SEC football.
“He was in the van and we were on the way back from practice at The Farm,” Jackson said. “He was talking about, ‘Man, I don’t know if I can keep doing this.’ He pretty much wanted to quit. We sat there for about 20 or 30 minutes talking. I explained how it was my first year, that it’s gonna be rough for him, but it gets easier. After that, we just kind of hit it off.”
“We would talk after practice every day,” Day said, “just about everything.”
“If we had a problem we ended up talking to each other and just hanging out,” Jackson continued. “Before I knew it, I didn’t realize it, but I was like, ‘Man, we’re pretty close.’ Going places together, hanging out, going to each others houses, the movies, dinner, everything you can name, pretty much.”
They were certainly an unlikely pair, with Jackson looking the part of a senator, while Day looked more like an extra in a movie about motorcycle gangs (and he does ride a motorized scooter around town, all 300-plus pounds of him).
But, Jackson said, they balance each other out.
“I’m sure some people would say that we look weird next to each other,” Day said with a laugh, “but we fit perfectly together. We’re like a puzzle.”
Then add in Beckwith, who Day moved in with in their sophomore year, and the trio is complete. Everyone needs someone behind the scenes, and Beckwith is the producer of the group, keeping the whole show going.
“I’m usually the one recording the stupid vines,” he said with half a smile.
Though he jokes, the bond they have is strong. Jackson is his roommate for Friday nights in the hotel before games and it was he who got Beckwith through his first start earlier this season when he was unexpectedly thrust into the lineup after an injury to the previous starter.
“We were sitting in the room and I’m on my iPad while he’s laid back chillin’,” Beckwith remembered from the night before MSU hosted Alcorn State. “It’s just another game for him. He was like, ‘Man, just relax. If you don’t know it now, you’re not gonna know it.’ He gives me confidence in myself.”
As Jackson expected, Beckwith made his first start with nothing noteworthy occurring – exactly what an offensive lineman strives for.
So he’s remained in the starting lineup, Day and Jackson next to him, all three paving the way for rushers and clearing a space for passers.
Though, for as much damage as they do on the offensive line, they do even more on late nights afterwards, dropping as much as 20 dollars a piece at Taco Bell for what they refer to as “fifth meal,” not fourth.
“That’s kind of a fat guy deal,” Beckwith said. “We pretty much go in there and wreck the place. The woman in the drive-thru knows us by name, what drinks we want, what sauce we want.”
Watching them all at practice, they have jokes, dances and celebrations of both victory and embarrassment, all while playing at a level expected of those who are the best in the country at their positions.
“Just be honest,” Day said. “If you don’t have fun, you’re not gonna make it. It really is hard. If you don’t make it fun when you’re out here, it’ll be miserable.”
The three have plenty of fun together.