Mississippi State Football Ushers In Joe Moorhead Era

Courtesy: Mississippi State
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STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Hundreds of fans greeted Joe Moorhead upon his arrival to Starkville Wednesday, and a new era of Mississippi State football was ushered in at the 44-year-old’s introductory press conference on Thursday at the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex.

Moorhead, the 33rd head coach in MSU football history, met with his new team on Thursday morning before joining his family, MSU President Dr. Mark Keenum and Director of Athletics John Cohen at the press conference.

“We’re going to be the most precise team in the country, and we’re going to do it with three things: purpose, passion and a blue-collar work ethic,” Moorhead said. “In terms of philosophies – offense, defense and special teams – we’re going to attack. We’re going to be a team that is not going to allow the other side of the ball to dictate the tempo to us. We’re going to dictate what we do.”

Moorhead takes over a loaded roster of talent that will be coming off its eight straight bowl appearance. The Bulldogs will learn of their bowl destination on Sunday afternoon. Moorhead will not coach in the bowl, but he will be taking notes and evaluating personnel.

Below are quotes from the press conference:

MSU HEAD COACH JOE MOORHEAD
Opening Statement…

“Well, we had no notes, we had a little page of notes, and now we have a whole notebook full of notes. I guess that’s going to tell you about my skills as a public speaker, even being an English major. First and foremost, thank you all for coming out today. I appreciate everybody’s time. It’s certainly a historical day for myself and my family; this is a tremendous opportunity. This is my family and I’s first true extended journey into the South. When you hear about the term ‘southern hospitality,’ we found out that that is real and that is true. We got off the plane yesterday and were met with a crowd of what seemed like 1,000, 2,000 people at the airport. I must have signed 500 cowbells. I took a picture with a dog. I shook hands; I signed a hand. It was a pretty neat deal. So from my family and I to the Starkville community and the state of Mississippi, we couldn’t be more appreciative of the welcome you guys have given us and making us feel a part of this family as my family and I transition from our lives in State College, Pennsylvania., down here to the wonderful state of Mississippi.

“I’d like to give a few thank yous, first and foremost. Number one, as a man of faith, I’d like to thank God for blessing me with the abundance of gifts in my life, with my family, with my health and the opportunity to be involved with the greatest game in the world. All praise be to God. I’m certainly thankful for all the gifts that he’s given me. Number two, I’d like to thank my family: my beautiful, wonderful and supportive wife Jennifer. As you guys know, as coaches’ wives in this profession, they do a lot of the heavy lifting while we’re out here chasing our dreams and trying to do things to make our programs better. I really love her and appreciate her support for helping me and allowing me to chase my dreams as a football coach. My three beautiful children: Kyra, Mason and Donovan – y’all get to see them. We’re trying to decide right now whether they’re going to finish the year out or move down here now. They’re going to be doing a little bit of house hunting today. They’re the lights of my life; I love them more than anything in the world. I certainly appreciate and hope they understand the fact that the time I spend away from them, that every free moment I have is spent with them. I love them more than anything in the world.

“I’d like to thank my parents: my father, Murph, Sr. As Mr. Cohen indicated, I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My dad worked 35 years as a steel worker in a steel mill. He worked three jobs to put two kids through college. We were first-generation college kids. I really think in terms of my formation as a person and what I stand for was understanding what a blue-collar worker meant. It didn’t matter how cold it was, it didn’t matter how warm it was, how early in the morning or how late at night. He got up every day and went to work, came home and got something to eat, whether his second job was a bartender, janitor or whatever he needed to do to put food on the table, provide for his family and to make sure that they were well-educated. Ultimately our job as parents is to make sure our children’s’ lives are better than our own. I can’t be more appreciative of my father. One day he explained to me, ‘You see the pictures of the steel mills and the hot steel, the fire and all that stuff? That stuff’s real.’ He explained to me one day, ‘I do this so you don’t have to.’ That meant a lot to me. I’d like to thank my mother Rose. My father was the heavy-hand disciplinarian, someone who pushed me. My mother was caring, supportive and did the things as a stay at home mom that really helped my family to understand that parents can care in two different ways. I certainly appreciate my mother. My older brother Murph, Jr., has taught me a lot lessons about life, a lot of lessons about sports and what it means to be a man and what it means to be a father. My sister Tina, I don’t think I have a bigger fan. She’s certainly supportive. She’ll be down here ringing that cowbell like a lunatic. I look forward to that. If you see her in the stands, she’ll hopefully be the one ringing it the loudest. I certainly have a great appreciation for my family.

“Next I’d like to thank all the head coaches I worked for as an assistant coach, starting at the University of Pittsburgh with Walt Harris, and also Larry Coyer, the defensive coordinator. At Georgetown University, Bob Benson. At the University of Akron, J.D. Brookhart. At the University of Connecticut, Randy Edsall and Paul Pasqualoni. All the assistants that I worked for at those schools. Most importantly, James Franklin. I know you guys all understand Coach Franklin, his history, his past and what he’s doing now. I’ll be forever indebted to Coach Franklin because two years ago, he was in need of an answer for the position of offensive coordinator. He had the vision and foresight to roll the dice and take a chance on a 44-year-old head coach of a I-AA school who needed to come in and help a Big Ten offense and help the team achieve its goals. I’m forever indebted to Coach Franklin. He’s done tremendous things with the program and has Penn State going in the right direction. He’ll continue that success. Certainly Coach Franklin deserves a ton of praise and credit, and I’m forever indebted to him for giving me this opportunity.

“Certainly the last thing is this: every player that I’ve ever coached at every school and every level. As coaches, we put them in the position to be successful with our culture and teaching them how to be better students, better men and certainly as players. It’s because of their success on the field that as coaches, we’re able to move on and elevate to the next position in our lives. It’s certainly because of players. Every player that I’ve ever coached, I feel like I have great relationships with all these guys. Certainly I’m indebted to them as well. Without their performance on the field, I wouldn’t have been able to move on to the next goals of my life. I’m thankful to them.

“I’d like to thank the Mississippi State administration, starting with President Keenum, Mr. Cohen, Jared Benko and Bo Hemphill. I’ve had opportunities in the past and have gone through this process. The level of professionalism, the attention to detail and all those things that go with a successful head coaching search, they were there unbelievably. At the tail end of it, this thing was coming down pretty quick. It happened quickly. I can’t be more thankful to you guys for this opportunity to come here and lead this team. Thank you for everything you’ve done through the process.
“Lastly, I’d like to thank the fans who’ve been out in droves at the airport. Last night I was serving cheese fries at 10:30 p.m. in the Cotton District, I guess that’s what they call it. They were pretty fired up; they were getting some fries and having a good ol’ time, getting their picture with the head ball coach. The fans and the student body and the community, I couldn’t be more excited about that.

“A little bit about the decision-making process to accept this job here at Mississippi State. I got some great advice from a coach a long time ago that when you’re considering your options and having the opportunity to take a position there’s three things that you consider: personal, professional, monetary. I took a look at this opportunity at Mississippi State; like I said there have been some in the past. If you look at the personal aspect and the opportunity for my family and I to move to a different part of the country and experience some of the things that we haven’t, it’s obviously a very supportive environment. It was something we talked about as a family and felt that it was an awesome opportunity for them. We checked off the personal box. Second, professionally, as a competitor and a leader of men and someone who’s in this business for the competitive aspect of the sport, there is no greater challenge than the Southeastern Conference and the SEC West. To come here and be in charge of these young men, it checked off the professional box as well. Lastly, monetarily, I feel very fortunate to coach a kids’ game and be provided with the type of salary that I am. I grew up with a very middle class income. To be able to provide myself and my family with the type of things that we can because of what this profession provides, it certainly checked off the last box as well. I’m certainly thankful for that possibility.

“Talking a little bit now about the expectation level of the program. First and foremost, I’d like to express my thanks and appreciation to Coach Mullen and his staff here through the nine years. Sometimes you take a job over, and it’s in a state of disrepair. Sometimes you take a job over, and it’s in pretty good shape. This wasn’t a job where we had to go in, bulldoze the house, dig up the foundation, pour the foundation and put the walls back up. That’s not the case for this job. Coach Mullen and his staff did a fantastic job. The foundation is laid; the walls are up. We just have to make sure we add to it. Credit goes to Coach Mullen and his staff.
“So we talk about the three pillars of success in our program. Those things I believe very truly in a sense that as a football coach, I believe I’m an educator. My goal as an educator when these kids come here, and hopefully they’re here for four or five years, is to make sure in that time frame that they leave here as a better student, a better player and a better person. The way to do that in my eyes is through three things: accountability, productivity and persistence.

“From an accountability standpoint, to me, that’s all about the little things. It’s saying please and thank you; yes, sir and no, ma’am; treating the guy that cleans the floor the same way you would treat the president of the school. It’s treating women with respect like they’re somebody’s mother, daughter, sister or wife. It’s doing the little things right all the time – starting a drill behind the line. In major hits on long runs, it’s not close to the line, it’s behind the line. It’s finishing. It’s sitting in the front row in class. It’s being on time. All those little things. If you look at the game of football, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it happens. A team with less talent beats a team with more talent, and it’s because the team that does the little things right is the team that wins. I promise you, we’re going to be a football team that doesn’t cut corners. We’re going to do the little things right, and as you can see us do that through everything that we do. If I can trust you to go to class, I can trust you to run the right route. If I can trust you to treat people with respect, I can trust you to throw the ball to the right person. So we’re going to win through three things: talent, which we have an abundance of; culture, which we’re going to make sure we put our kids in to do the right things; and lastly coaching, to make sure we put them in a position to be successful.

“The second thing is productivity. I talked to the guys a little bit about it today. Life isn’t about just trying hard. Washing machines try hard. It’s about doing things to the best of your ability. What we want to do is to make sure that our guys understand that if you’re an A student, I expect you to get As. If you’re a B student, I expect you to get Bs. If you’re a C student and that’s the best you can do, when I expect you to get Cs. If you’re a walk-on player, you’re going to know your role and do your job, just like everyone else in the program and be the best walk-on you can be. If you’re an All-SEC caliber player, I expect you to do that. If you’re the best player in the country, I expect you to play like that. We’re going to be productive.

“The last thing is persistence. We’re going to finish everything we do. We’re going to fight tooth-and-nail. We’re going to scratch and claw. We’re going to make sure everybody understands what when you step on the field with the Mississippi State Bulldogs, you’re in for a 15-round fight; and we’re not stopping until the bell rings. Let’s get fired up for that.

“I also talked to the players today about our keys to victory. There are going to be three things that we harp on in this program: preparation, effort and execution. First being the most important, which is preparation. As I told the guys this morning, there’s no such thing as a game-day player. You can’t go through a whole week and have a bad week of practice and show up on Saturday expected to perform at the highest level. Everything we do is going to be centered on the preparation aspect, so that during the course of the week, Monday through Friday, we’re going to earn the right and make the investment so that when we take the field, we can play fast, we can play physical and we can react instead of thinking. So the number one thing will be preparation. Number two will be effort. We are going to play every snap of every practice and every game harder than our opponent, and that’s non-negotiable.

“The last thing is execution. You can prepare well and you can give us good effort if you want, but ultimately football is a game of execution and precision. We’re going to be the most precise team in the country, and we’re going to do it with three things: purpose, passion and a blue-collar work ethic. In terms of philosophies – offense, defense and special teams – we’re going to attack. We’re going to be a team that is not going to allow the other side of the ball to dictate the tempo to us. We’re going to dictate what we do. I think we’re going to see offensively, defensively and on special teams, to me, attitude reflects leadership. What I want these guys to see is they’re going to be a mirror image of their coaching staff. We’re going to be demanding without being demeaning; we’re going to put them in a position to be successful. We’re not going to wait. We’re not going to circle the ring for the bell and try to get a score on the card. We’re going to go for the dang knockout punch, and that’s what going to happen in this program.

“The last thing is this: our goals of the program, like Mr. Cohen mentioned, we’re not here to maintain. We’re here to elevate. The number one goal for me as an educator is to graduate 100 percent of our Bulldog players with a meaningful degree and give them the tools to be productive and make responsible decisions. You come into a football program as a college player, the ball is going to deflate at some point, whether it’s immediately after you graduate or it’s two years in the NFL, three years in the NFL, five years in the NFL. You’re going to have to go move on with your life’s work and be able to provide for yourself and your family with a comfortable existence. It is my job to make sure that the football part is in order but that these guys are prepared for life after football. The education part is something that is very, very important.
“The number two goal of our program is to make sure the dang Egg Bowl (trophy) stays home. I’ve been through rivalry games; I understand what they stand for. I’ve been a part of them at every level of coaching I’ve been at. I’ve had two conversations with President Keenum. They’ve been fantastic, but at the very end of it, he made it crystal, crystal clear there wasn’t any grey area or none of that. He referred to them as ‘The School Up North,’ wouldn’t even mention it by name. I see the importance now of keeping that trophy at home. That’s going to be at the top.

“Our next goal is to make sure that every year we qualify for a bowl game. Our next goal is to win the SEC West and consequently win the Southeastern Conference. Our final goal is to win the National Championship. I’m a quote guy, so there’s a thing I talk about all the time: ‘No one rises to low expectations.’ And as I sat in front of the team, I told these guys this morning, I sat in front of the Fordham team I took over after a 1-10 season and told them that the guys sitting in this room were going to be a part of deep championship team that would compete for a national championship. You kind of got some funny looks, guys elbowing each other and saying, ‘Who’s this guy? How about we figure out how win two games before we start talking about championships?’ Ultimately, as Mr. Cohen mentioned: year one, 6-5; year 2, 12-2 and beat Temple University, which is a I-A program; year three, 11-3, year four, 9-3 and beat Army, which is another I-A program. Because of our kids, our talent, our culture and our coaching, we were able to bring life into things that we said were going to happen. Fast-forward to my time at Penn State, I walked into the offensive meeting room for the first time. I met with the kids and they were coming off a year where they had struggled a little bit offensively and were 7-6. Coach Franklin did a phenomenal job, under the circumstances, of getting those guys to bowl games those first two years. I told them we were going to be one of the top-scoring offenses in the Big Ten and we were going to win a Big Ten championship that year. And once again, history repeated itself – elbows, looks. It ended up happening.

“As I stand here before you and stood before the team this morning, I sincerely mean that. Our goal here is not to just maintain this program. It’s not to insult these guys, this school and this state with low expectations. We’re going to do everything we can here to bring an SEC championship and be a program that competes for the national championship on a yearly basis. ‘You don’t build your reputation on what you’re going to do,’ Henry Ford said that. So we’ve got to make sure that we understand that we don’t get what we wish for, we get what we work for. I have a great feeling that these guys are going to put forth the work necessary to accomplish those goals.

“Lastly, wrapping up here, in the next few weeks, our thought process here and moving forward is that we’re going to make sure we get out and recruit, secure our commitments for the class of 2018. Obviously, I know how important the state of Mississippi is for recruiting, this region and the country. We want to do the things that are necessary to maintain our great recruiting class. We’re going to meet with the team; meet with all these guys individually to learn a little bit about their stories, their families, what makes them tick, what’s important to them off the field and learn a little bit more about them to grow these relationships; and meet with the rest of the support staff and things like that. Obviously I’ve got to get a staff in place here, so the wheels are in motion with that. I’m looking for guys with intelligence, loyalty and a great work ethic who will, once again, be great mentors to our program and give them the tools to be successful in the classroom, on the field and in the community. I’m putting a short-term and long-term calendar together. There’s a million things to do and not a ton of time. It’s been like drinking water out of a fire hose, which is not always a successful endeavor. I couldn’t be more excited to be here and stand in front of you as the head coach at Mississippi State University. Thank you all for your support. Can’t wait to get rolling here.”

On how his offense will run…

“I’m going to have a couple of guys that have titles as coordinators, but I’m going to run the offense and call the plays.”

On the process of becoming head coach…

“Like most of the time in these instances, the contact occurs through representation, so through my agents who did a fantastic job of representing me throughout this process, and then when the job finally opened up, the process went by quickly. We were able to have a face-to-face interview, had a second face-to-face interview and I thought it was going to last a little bit longer, but it appears I did a decent job on both interviews. It turned around pretty quickly.”

On his participation in MSU’s upcoming bowl game…

“I told the kids this morning, this is not my bowl game. This isn’t my season, I don’t think it’s fair for me to be around this team when I haven’t earned it. Being in a bowl game is special, it’s a great opportunity. I will be around, the staff I bring will be around, we will be evaluating, watching practices, taking notes and seeing how the guys compete, how they operate, their skill set. In terms of coaching and play calling and day-to-day operations and things like that, I won’t be a part of it, because I haven’t earned it.”

On the talent at MSU…

“I think it’s great when you have experience. The game of football is best learned through playing on the field and certainly both sides of the ball and special teams. To have guys who have gotten to gain experience in certainly a tough conference, that have been game tested, that will certainly benefit us moving forward.”

On how he perceived Mississippi State previously…

“Being a guy from the Midwest/Northeast, I’m a college football fan and certainly when you talk about the elite level of college football, the Southeastern Conference is that conference. Certainly the things Coach (Dan) Mullen has done here in his time, with Dak (Prescott), and I had the opportunity to get on the phone with him, and Fletcher Cox as well. Certainly all the things they’ve done during that time frame caught everybody’s attention as Mr. Cohen mentioned. It's gone from a job where Coach Mullen took it over, it was something he had to build into something that was a very desirable job, one that is a top 25 job in the country.”

On his perception of MSU as a football team…

“I saw one game earlier in the year. I can’t remember which one that is now. I think it was a weeknight game. Then I caught the Egg Bowl obviously. But I sat down with some of the guys last night, went through the depth chart, talked about the positions, numbers, how many guys we have in each position. Certainly to see the things that Mississippi State did against Alabama, competing down to the end, some of the quality wins that we have this year, the players specifically in the skill positions -- The games are won up front to me. The mentality of your team is dictated by the offensive and defensive lines. I have not watched any game film but from a coach’s perspective, what I’ve seen on TV and keeping track of scores, it’s obvious that this is a very competitive roster and football team in a very tough conference.”

On how Director of Athletics John Cohen handled the interview process…

“Well the cool thing is I’m a baseball guy so we got to talk a lot about baseball. In 20 years I’ve been around administrators, athletic directors, I’ve gone through this process a couple of times, and the times that I’ve gone through it have been tremendous. But just the expeditious nature, the level of the attention to detail, there was never any grey area. Everything that he said was going to happen happened, they were up-front and honest and that’s something that I appreciate.”
On making the transition with the team...
“It will be like really any other transition. We’ll get time in January. We get a certain amount of hours with the kids. We’ll utilize some of that time in the meeting room. You want to take some of that time and make sure that their first meeting in spring ball isn’t the first time that they’re hearing terminology and things like that. So you use the available time per NCAA rules in January to get a little bit of a head start, then certainly we’ll have spring, where you'll get 15 opportunities to install the offense. We’re a conceptual based offense. I think it's something that the kids can pick up rather quickly in terms of execution in the first year and certainly in the summer, when they're on their own doing the things that they're able to do through the leadership of the team. And then fall camp is the most integral part."

On the recruiting situation...

“I really don’t think anybody in college football has anything necessarily relevant to this experience with signing day being pushed up. It's certainly a confluence of events with the coaching change and the high school kids and junior college kids, and you're trying to get things all situated. Recruiting is a relationship endeavor. These kids who will sign have built relationships, have been recruited from Mississippi State for a good amount of time, so the only thing I can do is be who I am. I've been on the phone with a majority of the guys and continue to do that and just let them know what the vision of this program is, how we're going to make them successful as students and as players, and do our best to maintain what we have."

On hiring a defensive coordinator...

“We have a bunch of great names that are under consideration. Really when I look at a defensive coordinator -- I've been on offense my entire life -- I look for guys who do things that make it difficult for me to game plan against. So you can talk about three down, four down, different coverage schemes and things like that. I want someone that's going to be multiple, someone that's going to be versatile, someone that's going to be attacking and really be a mirror image of our offense. So in terms of the timetable of hiring staff, I can make 10 calls right now and have a staff filled before this press conference ends, but I want to measure twice and cut once and make sure that we're not just hiring for the sake of getting this thing filled up. We want to make sure that we're getting the right people in here to give us the opportunity to be successful long term."

On his offensive philosophy...

“First and foremost, offensively, we’re going to be a football team that runs the ball successfully. And when you look at where we’ve been with the types of running backs, the type of linemen we have, I believe the mentality of great teams are created by offensive and defensive linemen. Otherwise, we're going to go play flag football, so we’re going to run the ball successfully. And when, not if, when we do that it's going to force teams to commit numbers to the box with secondary support or pressures, and that creates one-on-one matchups on the perimeter."
On coming into a team with recent success...
“It factored in obviously. I think it's what I talked about; this isn't a rebuild. This is a situation where I'm walking into a team that's done a very good job with a very good coaching staff, and that’s part of the allure of the job that your coming in. You don't have to pour a foundation, it's already in. You get a chance to bring the coaches in and put your schemes in, put your culture in and put the the kids in position to be successful, so that played a part in it.”
On how he progressed Penn State's offense so quickly...
“Very carefully. When you look at the numbers, the transition was somewhat similar to what is was at Fordham, where I think it was like 17 to 33 in first year or something like that. The one thing I talked about with the kids at Penn State was I'm not here to harp on our past, I'm here to create our future. So the one thing that we did talk about was that whatever occurred in the past, good or bad, that we were going to write our own book and be the first chapter. And we really just put our heads down and went to work and said this is what we’re going to do, this is how why it's going to be successful."

On what he sees in quarterback Nick Fitzgerald...

“In the little bit that I've seen from watching games on TV, first and foremost he's a super tough kid, a kid that is ultra-competitive, that understands the game, has been well-coached. When I look at a quarterback I want a guy that can do three things: beat you with his arm, beat you with legs and beat you with his brain. From what I've seen he's a guy that can do all three and certainly the barometer of success for a quarterback is how the players around him rally. From what I've seen, he’s a guy that his teammates respect him and want to go to battle for, so that's a key component."

On what he said to the players in the team meeting prior...

“A similar message -- that I was excited to be here I talked to them a little bit about my background. I talked about what the fundamental goals of our program were going to be, our goals and expectations, some of the things moving forward into next few weeks, but really just reiterating the message that we came here to elevate and compete for championships."

On who he talked to about MSU...

“A lot of it was research that I did on my own, to be quite honest. There’s not many of these jobs out there in the country, so when you talk about a place like Mississippi State and this conference, and the allure of the job, there weren't many conversations that needed to be made. When you get an opportunity to come to a place like this in this conference, with this kind of support and backing from the fans, it's really a no-brainer."

On fan participation in the program...

“I'm for it. Obviously, this is something I need to sit down and talk to my staff and hash out some of the details, but to me this is a game because of the fans and as much as we can have them be a part of the fabric of our team and our program, because you go out there on game day and they're what makes us tick."

On qualities of his position coaches...

“Intelligence, loyalty and great work ethic and he has to be a great recruiter, and an expert in his position.”

MSU PRESIDENT DR. MARK KEENUM

“Alright, what a great day to be a Bulldog! I am thrilled and honored to be here today to introduce Joe Moorhead as our football coach here at Mississippi State University. I’m going to tell you what, I don’t have to tell anyone in this room how important football is to Mississippi State. We love football. I love football. I’m their number one fan. Many of you know that I am a product of Mississippi State. I am one of the nearly 140,000 living alumni of this great university. In fact, my very earliest memories in life were centered around Mississippi State football. I was with my family listening to the legendary Jack Cristil calling our games. I had a chance to share this morning with Coach Moorhead my 47-year-old cowbell that my father gave me when I was nine years old. It is a treasure of my family, just like it is with all of you.

“This is a great occasion for us. New leadership and a new vision that will move this football program forward to a new level. In nine years that I’ve been here, we’ve put quite a bit of investment into football here at Mississippi State. Just look at Davis Wade Stadium and the expansion that we so enjoy. Look at this beautiful football complex that we are in here today. We want our young men, our student-athletes, to have the best facilities possible to compete in the most challenging conference in the world. And not just compete but win championships. That’s what we’re committed to here at Mississippi State. It takes good leaders, people with vision, people who can lead young men and can mold them not only into outstanding athletes on the field, but to be good men and role models off the field. And to help them understand the importance of academics and earning their college education and earning their degree here at Mississippi State.

“John Cohen has done a good job of going around and building the pool of candidates, but I’ve heard a lot about Joe Moorhead over the past several days. I’ve heard that he is a visionary. He is a motivator. He’s a good reader of talent and a great coach, but the one word that I kept hearing time and time again, as people were describing Joe Moorhead to me, one word that kept coming up time and time again and to me was the most impressive, that Joe Moorhead is a man of integrity. And that means a great deal!

“John Cohen has been our athletic director now for a year. John, you have done quite a bit in one year. He’s done a great job. Our Athletic Director John Cohen came to me several weeks ago and said that there was a possibility that we would need to hire a new head coach and that he would need to begin the process of evaluating and studying and learning about potential leaders of our football program here at Mississippi State. He was very quiet about it and did it in a very professional manner. And he did an outstanding job. I cannot be more pleased and more proud of the leadership of our athletics department than I am of this gentleman. Y’all join me in welcoming John Cohen.”

MSU DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS JOHN COHEN

“Dr. Keenum is an outstanding public speaker. What a powerful speaker. You know that all great speakers don’t need visual aids. They don’t need notes. I think that’s really indicative of what a great speaker he is. I want to thank Jared Benko and I want to thank Bo Hemphill who went through this process along with me. Those guys are our second lieutenants and they’re the guys who really helped us go through this process. I want to thank them and Dr. Keenum who has been involved in this process every step of the way. I say this all the time, but to work for Dr. Keenum, with what Dr. Keenum does for this University on a daily basis, is extremely extraordinary. I feel so privileged to work for him. I want to thank, and bear with me, I want to thank Scott Stricklin. I want to thank Greg Byrne. I want to thank Mitch Barnhart. Here’s why, they let me stand in the back of the room. They allowed me be a part of coaching searches for a while now. So even as an old baseball coach, I got to sit back and listen and take notes and be a part of these coaching searches because it’s different at this high level of intercollegiate athletics so I want to thank those guys.

“I want to thank you. I want to thank our fans. Here’s why. Nine years ago, when we were looking for a football coach, it was a little bit different of an approach because our job wasn’t as in-demand as it right now. The minute that [former] Coach [Dan] Mullen decided to leave Mississippi State, the outpouring of interest in Mississippi State football was remarkable. And here’s why, it’s because of you. It’s because we have the most electric environment in college football. It’s because you have created, along with our student-athletes, this brand of Mississippi State football that is now a national brand. Thank you for helping us create that. As Dr. Keenum mentioned, how did this begin? How did this search begin? It began many, many months ago. Here’s why. Two reasons. No. 1: I felt like at any point in time, we had the possibility of Coach Mullen doing something different. I also felt like, as an athletic director, when you’re in any position of leadership, you have to be ready for what’s next. So Dr. Keenum was absolutely right.

“We did a ton of research. We got out there, and in a very quiet way, tried to get as much information as we could about this industry, about the coaches available, about the future of our program. We talked to industry experts all over this country. We talked to NFL people. We talked to NFL head coaches. We talked to GMs. We talked to scouts. We talked to industry experts at ESPN. We talked to guys all over the country who have an ear for college football. I can guarantee you that over the past sixty days, I probably talked to 120 people about this position and about what we should be looking for and the availability of the best talent in the country. In those conversations, it was amazing how often the name Joe Moorhead kept coming up over and over again. And I want to tell you what we were looking for.

“We were looking for a positive leader of men, and everyone we talked to kept saying what an incredible, positive figure this man has been. As the word got out that Joe was going to become our head coach, he was getting texts from former players and parents all over the country expressing love. His phone was exploding, and I can totally believe that. I can see what he meant to those young men.

“We were looking for a brilliant football mind, so I remember having a conversation with James Franklin at Penn State University. He said, ‘I know this guy can call plays. I know this guy has an incredible grasp for offensive football. Maybe more so than anybody in college football.’ But I need to ask you this. How about defensive football? And I’ll never forget what James Franklin said to me. He said, ‘John, this guy is a ball coach. This guy can coach any position on the field. We could put him on the defensive side of the football and we wouldn’t miss a beat’ Pretty, powerful stuff. We were looking for a dynamic play-caller. We believe at Mississippi State that this is something of great importance and Joe made it clear to us that he wanted to call plays wherever he was. We were looking for somebody who had head coaching experience. Having talked with the Athletic Director at Fordham University, he said something to me that was really powerful. He said when Joe was our head guy at Fordham, he said that he had been [working in athletics] for 25 years and said that he had never met a better person or a better coach, anywhere than Joe Moorhead. We’re looking for someone who can recruit at the highest level, and there’s no question Joe Moorhead fit that bill. We were looking for someone who had a blue-collar attitude, but an intellectual personality at the same time. Joe fits both of those bills. We were looking for someone who had to overcome adversity at some point in their life. Because wherever you find someone incredibly successful, you find that they had to overcome some sort of adversity. I know Joe will tell you a little bit about his past and his history. We were looking for someone who was unselfish and who had a servant heart. Through our discussions with Joe, we kept talking about this over and over again. He needs selfless people. He needs to surround himself with selfless players and selfless coaches and selfless administrators as well. I truly believe that about him. And I’ll tell you this, as we were going through Joe’s contract, [money] was probably the least amount of time on that we spent on any subject. Because Joe said, ‘Hey, what you’re offering me is great, but here’s what’s important to me: I’m going to take care of our staff and I want to make sure that we have the best football staff in America. That’s what’s important to me.’ I said, ‘Joe, you’re so intelligent and so smart.’ In some ways, he sort of has a prophetic nature to him. So I said to him, ‘Joe, do you have an edge to you?’ and he replied, ‘Oh my goodness, John, do I have an edge.’ [laughter]

“I have to tell you this, I just attended our first team meeting with the players, it’s the best first meeting of a team that I have ever been around in 25 years of intercollegiate athletics and I think every football player in that room would back me up on that. We were looking for someone who had an appreciation for what has happened here over the past eight years. I think we all have an appreciation for the fact that Mississippi State is better off than we were nine years ago and I don’t think there’s any question about that. And Joe has a deep appreciation for that. But make no mistake about it, Joe Moorhead is not here to maintain. He is here to make us better. And he made that clear to the 120 people in that room. We were looking for someone with energy and with passion and a plan. There’s no question Joe has a plan. You can feel the passion in his voice. Joe has been in this game for 20 years. The last four institutions that he’s been a part of have all won conference championships. In fact, at his first year at Penn State, he was part of going to Penn State winning their first outright Big Ten championship in 25 years. This past August, Sports Illustrated and Yahoo.com named him as the No. 1 one rising assistant in all of college football. In just two seasons, he has transformed Penn State’s offense into one of the elite in all of college football. Before coming to Penn State, they were ranked 100th in the country in total offense. Just ten months later, they’re 21 in the country in total offense. He helped create and develop Heisman trophy candidate Saquon Barkley. He helped develop national quarterback of the year candidate Trace McSorley. He took over a Fordham program that was 1-10 and then in the next five years went 38-13 including three straight FCS playoff appearances. But out of all the things that are important to Joe, he feels that his greatest accomplishment, the love of his existence is his family. And we want to welcome his wife Jen and his children Kyra, Mason and Donovan to the Mississippi State family. The greatest thing about my speech today is that it is over. So I want to introduce the 33rd football coach at Mississippi State, Mr. Joe Moorhead.”

RUNNING BACK KYLIN HILL

On what he knew about Joe Moorhead…

“Knowing that he’s coached one of the best running backs in college football (Saquon Barkley), the way he uses running backs and the way he operates the offense got me excited.”

On his impression of Moorhead in the first team meeting…

“In the team meeting, he talked to us about his aggressive approach to football in everything we do. Everything he talked to us about, he meant it. I feel like he’s a businessman and ready to roll.”

On when he heard that Moorhead wants to run the football…

“That made me smile. I love to run the football. I’m going to run hard and do what I have to do to prove my point and earn a spot.”

On the unique ways Moorhead utilizes running backs…

“It reminded me of how my high school coach did. I played running back, but I also played in the slot. With my skill set, it worked out fine with me, so it should fit my best abilities.”

On Moorhead’s creative offensive schemes…

“A guy like him with trick plays and all that causes havoc for a defense, especially in the SEC where we go against tough defenses. It will be something different.”

On his teammates’ reactions after the team meeting…

“I know our entire offense is ready to go. They were very excited about the hire. We were just looking at their team stats and the way they use the quarterback, wide receivers and even the tight ends and it got us excited.”

On his excitement about Moorhead’s hiring…

“It all goes back to how he uses the running backs. He uses them in the slot and even on special teams. It got me really excited.”

On the last five days…

“(Dan Mullen accepting the job at Florida) has made the team stronger. It got us together as a family and we just came together. We knew for the next coach that was coming in, we just had to work hard and keep grinding and pushing.”

On his first impressions of Moorhead…

“I watched Penn State football. I didn’t know exactly who he was, but because I watched Penn State, I know how his offense works. When I found out that we hired their offensive coordinator, it excited me because of the different ways he used their players.”

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN JEFFERY SIMMONS

On his first impressions of Moorhead…

“I feel like it’s going to be great, especially next year. When I first met him yesterday, he said, ‘What’s your ring size?’ After that, I felt like we are going to win some games next year.”

On the first thing that stood out to him about Moorhead…

“His energy. I feel like he’s going to bring a lot of passion and energy out onto the field. Even his handshake yesterday had a lot of energy. I feel like there are a lot of good things coming.”

On the first team meeting…

“He just told us everything he looks for, everything he stands for and wants to see in a program and in players. I feel like all of the guys are buying into it.”

On what he wants in a defensive coordinator…

“The same thing we had this past season, especially for the defensive line. I just want us to play fast. I know we won’t get a defensive coordinator that is exactly like Coach Grantham, but at the same time I want a defense that is attacking. No matter who we get, we are going to buy in to his program.”
On if he would like to see a similar style of defense next year as he had this year…
“I would love that, but you don’t always get what you want. I’m buying in to whatever it is.”

On his reaction to Dan Mullen being hired at Florida…

“One man won’t stop the show. I was talking to my mom and she said that someday she will have to leave this earth while we’re still here. The traditions will keep going. Just because one guy leaves, the tradition doesn’t stop. We have great leaders who have told us what we need to do. I know Coach Moorhead is going to keep the tradition going, especially for the Egg Bowl. I know he’s going to help us get that trophy back to this program.”

On how he felt when Moorhead was hired…

“A great offensive coach is going to want a great defensive coach. I feel like he is going to get the best coach to fit his scheme. I feel like he is going to go get a great coach for us.”

On what Moorhead wants in players…

“This morning, one of the first thing he said is accountability. Be accountable of everything. The little things are important. He said we are going to take it day-by-day. Every play, we will have a championship mindset and play every play like a championship play.”

On what connected with him most during the team meeting…

“Basically, everything he said. I want to do every little thing right. When he said to play every play like a championship play, I liked that intensity and energy. I’m loving it so far.”

On what Moorhead brings to the table to help continue the defense’s success…

“Even on the offensive side of the ball, I am loving hearing the guys talk about it. The tight ends and receivers are excited about it. I feel like them being able to score points on offense, it helps the defense out a lot. I’m just excited to see what defensive coach comes in.”