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August 16, 2011

Smoot smack coming back to State?

Fred Smoot did more in two years at Mississippi State than many do in four or even five year careers. He was both an All-American and All-SEC selection. He had his own website created to document his trash talk and he even had a mildly-serious but mostly Ole Miss-mocking Heisman campaign.

"Fred was ahead of his time," his former position coach at MSU Melvin Smith said.

Smith left MSU for a short time after Smoot went on to the NFL, but he returned to coach the cornerbacks at MSU, starting with Sylvester Croom and currently with Dan Mullen.

Now, Smoot is coming back to Starkville, too. The king of smack talk has been back to his alma mater three times in the last nine months, much to the delight of his former coach. Most recently, Smoot spoke to the Bulldog football team on Sunday as the final speaker in what Mullen called the Bulldog Experience Day.

"It was great," Mullen said. "The fact that guys like that, older guys who have experience in the program, get to come back around these guys. His message is awesome. You can see why he was All-American, All-SEC, All-Pro. You can see why he's that type of player with what his approach is to the game."

News of his visit leaked out over Twitter, as several players posted messages exclaiming their pleasure in hearing Smoot speak. Senior safety Charles Mitchell indicated that Smoot even had a private talk with the defensive backs.

Smith, the current cornerbacks coach, said his players have a lot to learn from Smoot.

"If a guy has played cornerback 10 years in the NFL and he's been a Pro Bowler and he's played at your school and he still looks like he could play and he has information for you, you would be stupid not to listen to everything he says, because he's been where you want to go. He started out where you are."

Asked what players are able to get out of hearing Smoot speak, Smith offered one word: competitiveness.

"I put a sign up in my meeting room because it's something he wanted in there, and that's, 'Compete all the time,'" Smith said. "So just that thing, it's all about being competitive every day, trying to be the best you can be. Corners really have to pay attention. I think it inspires them to really get back to the fundamental things of playing DB."

When Smoot spoke to the current Bulldogs on Sunday, Mullen said it was the same message.

"That you better compete on every single snap of your life. His big point is he remembers one play from practice," Mullen said. "That was the one time a receiver caught a pass on him in one-on-one drills. In two years, he gave up one completion in practice. He remembers that one. You better compete at that level if you wanna be successful, every single snap of your career."

Smoot visited campus earlier this summer, though he didn't meet with the team, as he was a guest coach at one of Mullen's camps for high school players.

Smoot's first visit to MSU in many years was last November when MSU hosted Arkansas. He said he never got to beat the Razorbacks as a player so he wanted to see it happen. Unfortunately for Smoot, MSU lost, but he still made an impact, according to junior cornerback Johnthan Banks.

"As y'all noticed, we did lock Arkansas' receivers up," Banks said. "We had maybe two busted coverages where they got a big play. But he gave us a little pep talk in the locker room, got us going."

Smoot still considers himself a Bulldog and has called upon other alumni to join him in being more involved with MSU. While the head coach, athletic director and most of the assistants from Smoot's time on campus are gone, Smith remains as Smoot's connection to his glory days in the Maroon and White.

Talking with Smith, it's clear he has a special place in his heart for his favorite pupil, something Banks is quick to notice.

"Coach Smith loves the guy," Banks said. "He's always talking about Fred, Fred, Fred. Don't compare nobody to Fred on this team. Coach Smith, he's crazy about Fred. We all like Fred. I'm pretty sure if we ever needed him, he'd come back and help us."

Smith said the 2011 group may be the best-built secondary he's seen at MSU, but as Banks said, don't compare anyone to Smoot. Smith he doesn't have anyone like Smoot in his group.

"I wish we did, we don't really have any guys like that," Smith said. "We've got more of a blue-collar approach. John Banks can turn his game to whatever level he needs to. It's kind of hard for him. He's just not that kind of guy and it's kind of hard to not be who you are. Charles Mitchell is a heckuva football player, but he's not. These guys, they play hard, they play together, but they're kind of by the book. We're always trying to coach that in them. If you got it, you got it. If you don't have it, you don't have it. It's kind of hard to fake that."

Smoot was known for his flamboyant and decidedly non-blue-collar ways. He was a star on the field, but his fast-talking mouth off the field garnered just as much attention. Smoot once famously smacked, "Two-thirds of the earth is covered by water. The rest is covered by me."

Reportedly, Smoot once told a Vanderbilt receiver that he would allow him to catch a pass if he did his homework for him.

The legend goes on.

Mullen, perhaps unsurprisingly, said he would love to have Smoot on his team, trash talk and all.

"I'd love it," Mullen said. "You know why? Because he backs it up. He doesn't back it up by just showing up on game day. He backed it up by, and people will talk about him, he backed it up at practice every day. That's what is important to me."

Smith thinks it would work out well, too.

"Everything now is about talking, media. Fred had his own website when he was here," Smith said. "To me, he was ahead of everybody, because that was what he wanted to do. Right now, he would be a hit because everything is, you know, twitter, facebook, social networking. He networked himself and that was a negative at the time, but I think that's what everybody is going to right now."

Smoot played his final season in the NFL with the Washington Redskins in 2009, the same team who drafted him in the second round out of MSU back in 2001. Now, in addition to plans for a few Waffle Houses, Smoot has said he'd like to be an analyst in the media or even have a front-office job in the NFL.

Mullen, who said he is just now getting to know him, believes that whatever Smoot does, he will likely find success.

"His whole story is Smoot Smack, isn't it? He's got a little swag about him," Mullen said.



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