Mark McLaurin knew he would be needed right away during his first year at Mississippi State.
Head coach Dan Mullen met with the team prior to the start of the season and McLaurin was one of four true freshmen that he told to be ready when their number was called.
McLaurin’s No. 41 would be the last among that group to be called, making his debut on special teams against LSU in Week 2 and then at safety the following week against Northwestern State. He went on to appear in the final 12 games this past fall.
It was a large learning curve making the jump from being a Class 3A state champion at Collins to playing against the athletes of the Southeastern Conference.
“I came from a small high school and the tempo here is way faster,” McLaurin said. “Everybody here has the same amount of talent as you do and they’re bigger and faster. I caught on though and hopefully I’ll keep progressing as it goes.”
Collins relied on his coaches and teammates to help him through his initial college season, one in which the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder made 20 tackles and broke up three passes in.
“I was steadily learning from coach (Tony) Hughes and coach Ephraim (Banda),” McLaurin said. “I also learned from Kendrick Market. He was a senior and could sit down and watch film with you and help you become a good player like him in this system.”
One of the biggest adjustments McLaurin had to make was focusing in on one position and one sport. Collins starred in all three phases for the Tigers in high school as well as playing baseball and basketball.
“It’s pretty hard because I used to play everything,” McLaurin said. “I got used to that because I’d been doing it ever since I got to high school. But I know safety is what I’m going to do for the next four years so I have to stay focused on it and keep moving on.”
McLaurin was a three-star prospect in high school drawing offers from Alcorn State, Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette, Memphis, Ole Miss and Southern Miss.
After concluding his first year on the field in Starkville, McLaurin is proud of the decision he made to become a Bulldog.
“I’ve been very happy here,” McLaurin said. “I don’t regret coming here at all. It’s a family thing here. Coach Mullen hasn’t lied to me one time. He’s told the truth from the first time he was sitting on my couch talking to me and my family. If you want to be a great man and a champion in life both on and off the field then you can come here to Mississippi State because you’re going to work and academics are going to come first. I’m glad I came to be a part of this family.”