March 6, 2009
Wednesday turned out to be a long day for Don Edwards.
Edwards, the former assistant for game operations at Mississippi State, left Starkville at 6 a.m. to attend the funeral of former Mississippi State teammate and friend Ode Burrell in Pascagoula and didn''t arrive back home until 8 p.m.
For Edwards, who delivered an eulogy during the funeral, it was worth the time and effort.
"He was my best friend and still is," Edwards said. "Someone at the funeral described him as a character with character and I thought that was right on. He and Marvin Cornelius, who played with us, are the only two guys I know who could come up and call you any name they wanted to and you wouldn''t mind because you just loved them. If you were around him five minutes, he would become a best friend to you."
Burrell passed away late last Saturday at age 69 due to complications of diabetes.
Edwards and Burrell became close during their junior college football days when Edwards was at East Mississippi and Burrell was at Holmes.
While traveling through Texas for an All-American game in Albuquerque, N.M., Edwards recalled a story about Burrell and a sack of apples.
"We rode with coach Bull Sullivan and there was four of us in a car," Edwards said. "We would rotate around. Everytime we would stop and take a restroom break or get something to eat, Ode would always go into this sack and pull out an apple. He had this big sack of apples. I got to sit beside him and he pulled out another apple from the sack. I said, ''Man you must really love apples,'' and he said, ''Not really, it just helps hide my cigarette breath.''"
Edwards said Burrell was a practical joker who wouldn''t mind doing things like putting a dead bird in the pants pocket of his teammates during practice.
Burrell not only impressed his friends with his wit, but everyone on the football field as a running back.
He was a second-team All-Southeasthern Conference selection in 1963 after leading the Bulldogs with seven touchdowns. He had 10 carries for 69 yards to help MSU beat North Carolina State 16-12 in the 1963 Liberty Bowl.
In 1962, Burrell rushed 71 times for 310 yards and five touchdowns. He had a 106-yard rushing effort against Tulane that season, including a 90-yard touchdown that is the third-longest rush in school history.
"He could run as fast as he wanted to," Edwards said. "He would run whatever it took and you weren''t going to catch him. He was just phenominal. He was so quick to the hole."
After his career with the Bulldogs, Burrell went on to play professionally with the Houston Oilers from 1964-69.
Mississippi State radio broadcaster Jack Cristil remembers Burrell as a fine player and excellent running back who did not let his size bother him.
"He wasn''t very large (at 170 pounds) if he had 20 pounds more he could play today," Cristil said. "He had that kind of talent and that kind of ability. He would fit in with today''s game. Mississippi State did not get a lot of publicity and neither did he, but he was really a star in the SEC in those days."
Cherry on top
Mississippi State freshman sprinter Deangelo Cherry insists he didn''t even know about a junior record when he ran the 60-meter dash at the 2009 USATF Indoor Championships.
His time of 6.52 seconds in the 60-meter dash at the 2009 USATF Indoor Championships broke the 10-year-old American Junior Record held by Leonard Scott.
"Now that I am in college and had to run the meets, I felt just happy and privileged to make the finals and I wasn''t trying to break any record," Cherry said. "It was just something that happened."
Cherry also set the Mississippi State school record that was previously held by Pierre Brown.
Not bad for an athlete who is only in his second year of running indoor track. Cherry first learned about indoor at the end of his junior year of high school and decided to try it out.
"I''m excited about it," Cherry said. "I really didn''t think I was going to get off to this kind of start and it was a major shock to me."
Cherry will be back in a comfort zone when MSU opens the outdoor season Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla., at the North Florida Invitational. He will be participating in the 100-meter dash.
"I''m looking for our team to do well in their events and qualify for the NCAAs," Cherry said. "Individually, I just want to run the 100 and qualify."
To help ease some of the economic impact of having the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament in Tampa, Fla., MSU has made available specially discounted upperlevel tickets for the event.
The ticket booklet is on sale for $100 and can be purchased by calling the Mississippi State ticket office at 662-325-2600.
Mississippi State athletic director Greg Byrne said other SEC schools have gone the same route and something that should help fans.
"Tampa is a little further off-sight than having a central location like Atlanta so it was something we were trying to do to help move some tickets that we have," Byrne said.
There has been some concern with Tampa being the location and that will cause some SEC fans far away from the city from making the trip.
Not only will the Bulldogs have to travel a great distance to get to the SEC Tournament this year, but could have a long stay if they are to reach the finals which will strain the pocketbook.
Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury didn''t see anything wrong with a central location like Atlanta.
"I like the setting where it was at," Stansbury said. "I thought (Atlanta) kind of sets in the middle where everybody''s got an equal opportunity a little bit for the fans to get there. Tampa moves away from a lot of people. It''s a long way for everybody. There is only one team that it helps and that''s Florida. Who does it help?
"The way this economy is who is going to jump on a flight to get down there. There will be some who will drive to Tampa and St. Pete area, but it''s going to hurt some of them. I don''t know why we changed, but that''s the way it is."
Florida good for golf
Most of the time, the state of Florida is perfect for golf.
For MSU men''s coach Greg Martin and his team last weekend, that wasn''t the case.
The Bulldogs were greeted with snow flurries while competing at the Troy State Invitational in Crestview, Fla.
Mississippi State hopes for better conditions when it travels back to the Sunshine State for the Seminole Intercollegiate in Tallahassee.
Even by scheduling matches in Florida, Martin has learned to accept whatever the weather has to offer.
"That''s just part of college golf," Martin said. "You play in the spring and you prepare for cold weather, wind and damp conditions. You just do the best you can with it."
Despite the conditions, the Bulldogs finished first in a nine-team field at the Troy Invitational.
Mississippi State had a three-round score of 892 at the par-72 Heritage Plantation Club. Noah Goldman, returning to his home state, captured the individual title with a 5-over-par 221.
As his club continues this spring, Martin likes its chances of repeating a run to the NCAA championships.
"We have yet to play up to our abilities this year," Martin said. "It''s just a matter of all the guys playing well at the same time."
Springing into action
The track and field and men''s golf teams are only part of the athletic activity that MSU will be involved with this weekend.
Along with the basketball action for men and women, the baseball team continues its series in Hawaii, while the softball team plays at the Malihini Tournament in Hawaii, the men and women open SEC tennis against Tennessee on Friday and against Georgia on Sunday.