In my travels – both around the Southeast and around the Internet – I often hear people bad-mouthing Starkville, which to hear some people tell it is populated by little more than cows and tractors. I honestly don't know what anyone would have against cows and tractors, seeing as how a good bit of our food wouldn't be available without those invaluable commodities.
Anyway, it seems this mentality is present among some media members. MSU coach Dan Mullen was asked yesterday how he lures recruits to Starkville, as if it were some baffling mystery of the universe, right up there with the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow and Lou Holtz's newspaper trick.
The question (don't know the reporter): "Dan, would you talk about how you've been able to turn Starkville into an advantage. It's not exactly in most minds the garden spot of the Southeastern Conference, but you turned it into a place people want to be."
In the past, Mullen has talked about the family atmosphere at MSU and the beauty of the campus, but this was a question about the town itself.
He answered by giving examples of his friends' reactions when they come down from the northeast to visit Starkville.
"The first thing you hear out of their mouth is, Wow, I didn't know this was such a beautiful place. What a beautiful place to live, great community, friendly people, you have all these amazing things."
He also noted that Starkville isn't a place most people just stumble upon. That is, you're probably only there if your intention is to go there.
"It's a hidden gem," Mullen said. "Everybody that comes to visit us, that's the challenge we've had. Once they come on campus, whether it be recruits, parents, even fans, they say, Wow, I didn't know what a beautiful place this is, what a great place to live, what a great community Starkville, Miss., is."
There has been talk every offseason since Mullen arrived of him leaving for a bigger, supposedly better job, be it Florida or Miami or Ohio State. And he has repeatedly said that he and his wife, Megan, are quite content in Starkville. Some people seem to find that hard to believe.
The more he says it, though, the harder it becomes to question Mullen's sincerity about it.
"I see us continuing to build more and more success as more and more people have the opportunity to come to see what a great place Starkville is," he said.
If he keeps it up, Mullen just might make Starkville a destination college town, at least for football prospects.