Bulldog head coach for a day

By Steve Brandon

Amory’s Steve Brandon writes about his head coaching experience during Saturday’s MSU Spring Game.

Brad Bradway of Vicksburg and I earned the honor of being Head Coaches at Saturday’s Mississippi State University Maroon and White Spring Football Game. We secured the position through an auction held by the Bulldog Club with Brad chosen to coach the Maroon team and me the White team.

My first thought after the announcement that I was going to be a coach was, “What have I gotten myself into?” As it turns out, the week will be remembered as one of my life’s highlights.

A business colleague once said of me, “Steve is the only person that I have ever known who hates to lose more than he likes to win”. That, plus the fact that the losing team on Sunday morning had to clean up the trash that the record crowd of 34,127 fans left in the stadium, it pains me to type the final score, Maroon 26, White 13.

I have to begin with the best part of the experience, getting to know some of the finest young men with whom I have ever been associated. I have never heard as many “Yes Sirs” in a single week in my life. I am proud that each and every one of them chose my alma mater for their college education.

The week began with attending Tuesday and Thursday’s practice, evaluating players and getting to know the coaches.

Friday morning brought the draft. First we took turns drafting coaches and staff. Everyone on the Football Staff including the secretaries and graduate assistants were included. After drafting the coaches, each team along with their staffs went to separate conference rooms each to plan their strategy.

During this session, Brad and I each were able to design two trick plays for the game, (none of which were successful).

The Maroon team’s strategy was to “go big” and focus on the run, where the White team decided to go for the “skill players” and focus on a passing game.

Both staffs then alternated selecting players with Maroon selecting Derek Sherrod as the first player selected, and White next choosing Chad Bumphis. The process was much like you see on the NFL draft on TV including a running commentary by Head Coach Dan Mullen. After an hour of back and forth, the rosters were complete.

Next came the media time with an on camera interview with WCBI for that evening’s 6 o’clock news plus talking to the CSS crew who were doing the TV broadcast, then on to the final practice where the Maroon and White teams participated in separate workouts.

The responsibility that caused my greatest apprehension was the pre-game motivational speech. Game Day for me began at 5:30 a.m., waking up thinking about that speech. Throughout the morning I practiced with whomever I could get to listen until the drive to the stadium. If I had known that the video of my speech would be fed live to the stadium video board for all to see, I might have stayed in Amory.

During the game, Brad and I suggested plays, constantly communicated about strategy with our offensive and defensive coordinators, and made every decision on whether to punt, go for it on fourth down, or attempt a field goal. I was amazed at the intensity of the coaches and players on the field during the game.

The Maroon strategy prevailed as the White team had a poor passing day completing only 12 of 27 attempts for 125 yards including overthrowing two wide open receivers behind the Maroon coverage.

I want to extend my sincere thanks to Coach Dan Mullen, his assistant coaches, staff members, and especially the Mississippi State players. We could not have been treated with more patience, understanding, and respect. It truly was a week to cherish and remember.

Tomorrow I’ll return to being an “armchair quarterback”, although now understanding much more about what goes into preparing and coaching the team.

For now I’ll retire to the couch, take a couple of Advil and hope my knees and back calm down after helping the White team pick up all that trash at Davis Wade Stadium.