By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Fletcher Cox has done his part for Mississippi State. Now he’s taking the next step in his football career.
The junior defensive tackle has declared for the NFL Draft, saying Tuesday that it was a “hard decision” to leave MSU, but the right one for him.
“I felt like it was the right time for me to do it,” said Cox, who received feedback from the NFL, which graded him as a second-round pick.
The first-team All-SEC selection could very well be taken in the first round. The draft is set for April 26-28.
Once a relatively scrawny prospect from Yazoo City who played both defensive line and quarterback in high school, Cox developed into one of the SEC’s premier defensive tackles. He recorded 56 tackles, 14.5 tackles-for-loss and 5.0 sacks this season, and helped lead State to a 7-6 record and Music City Bowl win over Wake Forest.
Cox has played a big role in taking the Bulldogs from SEC doormat to winner. That was a goal of his from the first day on campus.
“When I came here in 2009, I told the guys – like Chad Bumphis, Josh Boyd, Johnthan Banks, Tyler (Russell) – I said this program is on the rise,” Cox said. “They’re going to do big things, and we’ve got to be the ones to build the foundation for it. ”
The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Cox said in late November that his “plan” was to return for his senior season. But those plans changed over the next month or so as he received feedback from the NFL and as his stock rose.
Cox doesn’t recall any particular point at which he started leaning toward going pro. He sought the advice of family and teammates, including roommate Chad Bumphis, a junior wide receiver.
Cox said his teammates supported his decision, and there was no pressure to either return or leave.
“They feel like I’m mature enough to make my own decisions in life,” Cox said of his family. “They told me whatever decision I make, make sure that the decision I make is what’s best for me.”
In a statement, MSU coach Dan Mullen said, “Fletcher bought in to our program and matured during his time here. I’ve always said that we’ll support our players in their efforts to reach their dreams, and Fletcher has a chance to reach his.”
Staying in school
Cox plans to take classes this spring but doesn’t yet know when he will graduate. He’s pursuing a degree in industrial technology.
He’s yet to sign with an agent.
During his MSU career, Cox played in 36 games with 27 starts. He recorded 114 tackles, 24.5 tackles-for-loss and 8.5 sacks. He also blocked five kicks, including a field goal in last week’s Music City Bowl that helped swing momentum MSU’s way in a 23-17 win.
He’s accomplished a lot at State. Does Cox have a favorite memory, on or off the field?
“Ooh, man. Good question right there,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of great memories here at Mississippi State.”
Banks, a junior cornerback who played at East Webster, announced Tuesday that he will return for his senior season.