MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The Mississippi State football team’s first full day in Memphis was certainly a busy one as the squad visited St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the morning, practiced in the afternoon and spent the evening at the Team Welcome Party at AutoZone Park.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital ...
For a collection of MSU players, Friday morning began with a trip to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The players arrived at 9:30 a.m. and spent about 10 minutes in the main lobby learning about the history of the hospital, how it is funded and what goes into making sure each and every patient gets the best care for him or her.
The players then walked into an area just outside the cafeteria and signed autographs, gave high fives, shared smiles and talked with patients for about 45 minutes. One of the patients’ favorite things was putting their hands next to the players’ hands and seeing the size differences.
There were so many smiles and thank yous shared among the players, the children and the children’s parents. It was indeed a special experience for all involved.
For more on St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, click here.
Afternoon Practice ...
The players went through a series of offensive and defensive meetings in the early afternoon before departing for practice at Rhodes College from approximately 1:30-3:30 p.m. Much of today’s work focused on team-on-team activities instead of drills like Thursday’s “reintroduction” did.
The Bulldogs were also able to spend the entire workout outside instead of splitting time inside and out like Thursday. MSU has just two practices remaining before a final walkthrough at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on Monday afternoon.
Team Welcome Party ...
After returning from practice, the Bulldogs took off for the official welcome party at AutoZone Park, right across the street from The Peabody. Rice and Mississippi State were both at the event and enjoyed a BBQ buffet and a series of team challenges, including a rib-eating contest, XBox contest and singing contest.
MSU got off to a quick lead as junior offensive lineman Damien Robinson won the rib-eating contest. The entire Liberty Bowl trip has been a homecoming trip of sorts for Robinson, who grew up in Olive Branch, Miss., just 23 miles from Memphis.
Following the rib fest, freshman linebacker Dezmond Harris represented the Bulldogs in the XBox game. Harris fell behind 7-0 before kicking a field goal to make it a 7-3 contest at the half. Early in the fourth quarter, Harris scored a touchdown to put MSU up 10-7, but Rice tallied the game-winning TD with just seconds remaining to give the Owls the victory.
The final contest between the two teams proved to be the highlight of the night as sophomore running back Derrick Milton and junior defensive back Jay Hughes represented MSU in the singing contest, which turned into a concert by the entire room. Rice’s Gabe Baker started the competition and then it was time for Hughes and Milton to hit the stage. The duo performed three songs with Hughes playing the guitar and Milton singing. The pair ended with The Temptations’ "My Girl," which the entire MSU team provided the back-up singing for.
Baker answered with Frank Sinatra’s "The Way You Look Tonight," but MSU countered with "Amazing Grace," sung by senior All-American Gabe Jackson and offensive student assistant Fred Walker. The Owls ended the competition with Elvis Presley’s "In The Ghetto," performed by Christian Covington.
The Welcome Party’s singing judges ruled it a tie, resulting in an overall tie for the night. The teams will have to wait until Tuesday to determine the victor for the week.
Looking Ahead ...
On Saturday, members of the team will go through a series of meetings in the early afternoon before practice from approximately 2:30-4 p.m. Offensive coordinator Les Koenning and four offensive players will then meet with members of the media at the first press conference of the Liberty Bowl. Saturday night wraps up with a trip to the Memphis Grizzlies versus Denver Nuggets NBA game at FexExForum.