By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
HOOVER, Ala. – One game really can make a difference. Or in the case of Chris Relf, it can be the payoff for years of hard work.
Last November, Mississippi State’s junior quarterback shredded the Ole Miss defense for 131 yards and a touchdown rushing in last year’s 41-27 Egg Bowl win, and he added two TD passes. Coach Dan Mullen has seen a different Relf since that game.
“I think really after the last game of the season, Chris has been a completely different person,” Mullen said. “From his approach to workouts, his approach to offseason conditioning, his approach to academics – his whole approach and his demeanor has changed, and he really turned a corner having success in that last game of the season.
“He’s ready to attack his future.”
Relf, one of three Bulldogs accompanying Mullen at SEC Media Days on Wednesday, has been attacking the future for years. Growing up, he and brother Eric were pushed by their father, Dennis, during the long, hot summers in their home town of Montgomery.
Relf said it was his own personal two-a-days, with a workout in the morning and pass after pass in the evening.
“He told me it’s going to make me better,” Relf said of his dad, “(that) one day I’m going to thank him for that.”
Eric now plays for Alcorn State, which will travel to Starkville on Oct. 2. Dennis, a truck driver, played football at Miles College in Fairfield, Ala.
Family is important to Relf, and he can’t give them enough credit for his success. He doesn’t speak to his father as often as he’d like, but when he does, the talk always turns to football.
“My mom always told me to give it 100 percent in everything I do,” he said. “My dad told me I can do anything if I put my mind to it. That’s what I’ve been planning to do.”
As he battles Tyler Russell and Dylan Favre for snaps, Relf has the advantage of game experience. Plus, he’s become a leader in spite of his laid-back, soft-spoken demeanor.
“We have to grab him around the neck to make him talk sometimes,” MSU safety Charles Mitchell joked.
Relf thinks he’s gotten better in that department, saying, “I’m a laid-back guy, but there’s something about me, when I step on that field, I just have a passion for football.”
Relf rushed for 500 yards last year, and with Anthony Dixon, the school’s all-time leading rusher, gone to the NFL, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Relf will be a valuable yard-eater.
But he bristles a bit at the notion he’s not a good passer. Relf completed 53.7 percent of his throws last season.
He’s worked on passing for years, and he’s eager to show the fruits of that work.
“His approach to developing his quarterback fundamentals, what it takes to be a quarterback, has completely changed in his preparation going in through spring practice,” Mullen said, “and hopefully this summer, what he’s told me he’s been doing all summer long.
“You’re dealing with a completely different player.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.