TUPELO – Before stopping in Tupelo on Thursday during his Road Dawgs Tour, Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen visited Smithville and saw first-hand the destruction wrought two weeks earlier by an EF-5 tornado.
Mullen visited with high school students and met the mayor.
“To understand the destruction that happened there, you have to see it with your own eyes,” Mullen said. “Words can’t describe that. Hopefully we were able to lift up the spirits of the people there, and hopefully we’ll continue to lift up those spirits this fall on the field.”
Mullen has seen plenty of Mother Nature’s wrath during his week-long tour of the South. Wednesday in Vicksburg, he was interviewed by The Weather Channel while wearing hip waders in Mississippi River flood waters. His final visit Thursday was to Memphis, which has also seen massive flooding.
Connecting to fans is the overarching purpose of the Road Dawgs Tour, and Mullen has felt an even deeper connection with those who’ve been affected by tornadoes and flooding.
“This state’s done an unbelievable job of accepting me,” he said, “and one great thing I see, the people of Mississippi have so much resilience in dealing with these issues. Whenever there’s an issue it just brings the communities and everybody in the state closer together.”
As for his team, Mullen’s message to a packed room at the BancorpSouth Arena was the challenge of building on last season – when the Bulldogs went 9-4 and won the Gator Bowl – and not letting success breed complacency.
MSU finished the 2010 season ranked 15th in the country and will show up in most preseason rankings.
“We spend a lot of times talking about it to our guys, and we always talk about it,” Mullen said, “that if they don’t give more than they gave the year before, we can’t expect any better.”
Mullen wraps up the tour today with stops in Nashville and Atlanta.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal