This weekend, the MSU Sports Hall of Fame inducts five new members. Each day this week, we’ll be highlighting one of those individuals in this space.
For the last two years, Wayne Madkin watched every Saturday as the records kept on falling – as his records kept on falling. When Madkin graduated from Mississippi State in 2001, he did so as the best quarterback in the 100-year history of the football program. His 25 wins were the most by any signal caller to wear the uniform. His pass attempts (887), pass completions (462) and passing yards (6,366) were the most all-time in MSU history.
When Madkin took over as President of the M-Club a couple years ago, most of those records still stood. Then Dak Prescott broke them all. The timing was perfect as this year, Madkin’s peers have voted for him to be enshrined in the MSU Sports Hall of Fame. The quarterback on MSU’s All-Century team, Madkin will be inducted Friday night, then honored Saturday on the same field where he set so many of those records.
As the games were played, as MSU went to three-straight bowl games, as the Bulldogs made their first and only appearance in the SEC Championship game, and as Madkin passed his team up and down the field, he never quite understood what was happening. It was good, he knew, but at 18 years old, the gravity of the moment was a mystery to him.
It took nearly 15 years of waiting for him to put it all in perspective.
“It’s sunk in now,” he said. “Especially when Dak broke my records. The older you get, the more you realize you were a part of something special. He’s gonna feel the same way. Then there will probably be somebody who surpasses him years from now. Records are meant to be broken. When Dak surpassed those records, and I realized it was going on 15 years, that really made me appreciate the opportunity I had while I was there. Holding something for over a decade, it really sunk in how special of a time it really was.”
Beyond the numbers he put up, Madkin was a part of some of the most meaningful seasons and moments in the history of MSU football. The Snow Bowl, the Peach Bowl and a handful of Egg Bowls. The kick and the pick. All the comebacks. The first 8-0 team in school history. The Best in the West. The SEC West title and MSU’s first trip to Atlanta. There is an entire generation of MSU fans who grew up on Madkin and those Bulldogs around him, raised with the expectation that MSU is going to win, and it was thanks to those teams.
Madkin still runs into people like that today, men and women now in their 30s who tell him how much he meant to them when they were young.
“That what’s really special,” Madkin said, “that I got to be a part of so many kids’ lives, especially in the state of Mississippi.”
The feeling of inclusion, of being a part of something, is what always meant the most to Madkin as a player and what still lives in his heart today. He was a star at MSU, but Madkin’s childhood was anything but glamorous or easy.
That’s why Madkin’s favorite memory isn’t a game-winning touchdown in a bowl game, an appearance in a Championship Game or even a record-setting pass. What the new Hall of Famer cherishes the most is the moment he first truly knew that his coaches and teammates believed in him.
It was in 1998 as a freshman, in the second-to-last game of the regular season against Arkansas. If MSU won, then they guaranteed themselves an SEC West title if they won the Egg Bowl the following week. But that possibility rested entirely on beating Arkansas. And to do that, late in the game, MSU needed points. More than that, they needed a first down to keep the ball and the dream both in their possession. Fourth and long, Madkin came to the huddle with the play call. Wide receiver Kevin Cooper was going to get the ball, and Madkin was going to give it to him.
“Everybody’s eyes were so big and so focused and they were looking at me and they said, ‘We got this.’ When I took the snap, Arkansas had some very good defensive players, and one came off the end and got to me. I dipped under him. It was just a reaction. I rolled out to the right and, lo and behold, I see Kevin. By that time, I was going down. I felt somebody dragging me by my shoulder. I threw it, and quite frankly, I didn’t see the play. I was on the ground. But I heard the crowd roar and I knew something good happened.”
The pass was complete, setting the Bulldogs up for the go-ahead field goal, the victory and the SEC West title.
“Then after that, all the guys, Eric Allen, Randy Thomas, all those guys, they came and picked me up, hugging me, smacking me on the butt,” Madkin remembered. “When that play happened, everybody was in a state of like, ‘This is happening.’
“I was just a kid from Alabama, from the projects, and Coach Sherrill and a group of seniors trusted me enough to grow with me. That right there was very special,” Madkin continued. “They taught me so many things about being a leader. How to take the good with the bad and continue to push on … That fourth down and long play, I remember that vividly, looking in the huddle and seeing everybody’s eyes looking at me and believing in me to make the play at age 18. I’ll never forget that. For all the things that I was able to be a part of at Mississippi State, that validated and brought me over to an affirmation of myself and what I was part of.”
Madkin spent four years as a player, and the last 15 as an alum, validating Mississippi State football. It’s only appropriate that now, MSU once again validates him, assigning him to his proper place, enshrined in the MSU Hall of Fame.