It’s hard to tell when it became a thing, but at this point, it’s very clear that it is 100 percent A Thing, capital A and capital T. At the end of every press conference, radio interview or speaking engagement, It’s coming. At this point, It isn’t just expected, It is anticipated.
“No more questions?” the moderator will ask reporters as a press conference ends. “Alright, thank you coach.”
“Thanks, y’all,” Vic Schaefer will say. “Praise the Lord and go Dawgs.”
The way “Hail State” became the saying for all of Mississippi State athletics, “Praise the Lord and go Dawgs” has become the unofficial motto for the head coach of the Bulldogs’ women’s basketball team. Not just because it sounds good, or because it’s a thing he says often, but because it’s The Thing he says every time. Always.
In fact, the one time he forgot last season, the statement was felt in its absence, leading then-junior guard Dominique Dillingham to offer a prompt for Schaefer.
“Coach,” she whispered as they stood up to leave the dais at the end of a post-game press conference, “you forgot to say it.”
“What? Oh!” he replied before turning back around to face the reporters and cameras in the room. “Praise the Lord and go Dawgs!”
It’s become so expected and so tied to his personal brand, that as his successes have multiplied and he has MSU in Dallas for the Final Four, the excitement for Schaefer and his program has resulted in t-shirts being printed and sold in Starkville with his favorite line across the front.
While his players tease him about it often (each of them have their own Schaefer voice to use for their impression as they repeat his catchphrase in the locker room and at team functions) they also expect and respect it, with former players as far back as his days at Arkansas in the ‘90s remembering his frequent use of his favorite line. If nothing else, they consider the saying to be good luck.
“I’m just superstitious about things,” Dillingham said when asked why she always reminds him if she thinks he’s going to forget. “It would be bad luck.”
Schaefer himself can’t quite remember the first time he used the line, but as far back as he can remember as a coach, he’s tailored it to fit the team he’s coaching. At Arkansas it was “Praise the Lord and go Hogs.” At A&M, “Praise the Lord and gig ‘em Ags.” He could have decided to go with “Praise the Lord and Hail State” at MSU, but it seems his gut call to go with Dawgs rolled off the tongue a bit easier.
“It’s just what I’ve always done everywhere I’ve been,” he said searching his memory for the genesis of the line.
While he can’t remember when he first said it, Schaefer knows exactly why he first said it. The two-part sentence pretty perfectly encapsulates who Schaefer is and what’s important to him. Whatever has been said in the full length of any interview or speaking engagement, that line sums it all up in his own way. The second part of the sentence is obvious, showing the dedication and support to his team, but the beginning is something that goes as far as back as his own childhood, long before he ever thought about coaching basketball.
“I was brought up in the church,” Schaefer said. “Faith is very important to me and my family. In today’s world, sometimes that can get lost.”
In Schaefer’s life now, he doesn’t have to look for a reminder of the faith that’s so important to him. He doesn’t need a sanctuary or bible to find a reason to “praise the Lord,” though he certainly makes a habit of attending the former and reading the latter. He just has to talk his son. His son who shouldn’t be here. His son who was nearly killed in an accident that most would have expected to either end or severely cripple his life. Instead, Logan Schaefer is in Dallas this week, too, a healthy and happy college student watching from the stands as his sister plays and his dad coaches in the Final Four.
When the head coach says “Praise the Lord,” he’s doing much more than just ending a press conference.
“I feel like God is always the center of everything in our family,” his daughter Blair, a point guard for MSU, said in Dallas, “and He’s the reason we’re here today. I feel like there aren’t a lot of people who get this platform in their life, and when they do, there aren’t many people who give credit to who it belongs to. There’s a reason we’re here, and that’s God. [When he says Praise the Lord] it’s that he wants to say, ‘Thank you for everything you’ve given me.’”
Blair, 21 years old, can’t remember a time in her life that her dad wasn’t using his go-to phrase, and the line may very well pre-date her and Logan’s birth. But over the course of their lives, it’s become a regular part of their day, a motto they hear often and put in practice even more.
However, it never caught on elsewhere quite like it has at MSU. Now, as the head coach, the number of opportunities for Schaefer to use the line is exponentially larger, and thanks to social media and online streaming, more and more people are hearing him say it. MSU fans have picked up on it over Schaefer’s five seasons at the helm of the program.
“At first,” Blair said, “I think people were kind of caught off guard by it. They were like, ‘OK, yeah, that’s cool.’ And now he says it every time, so it’s like people are waiting for him to say it. When people see that shirt, they know who says it.”
Of all the hundreds of shirts Vic Schaefer has, his #PTLGD shirt is almost certain to be his favorite.
“Really,” he said, “what an honor. How special is that?”
He never meant it to become a slogan on a t-shirt, a motto for his family or even a habit that would, according to at least one of his players, result in bad luck if broken. It was just the perfect line to describe who he is.
“Praise the Lord and go Dawgs,” senior forward Breanna Richardson repeated. “It’s all of him in one sentence.”