STARKVILLE — A cross-section of Bulldogs were present and accounted for Saturday in the Cotton District for the third annual Running of the Bulldogs.
Super fans such as Hobie Hobart, one of the event”s organizers, were on hand. Former All-American linebacker and 10-year pro Johnie Cooks was behind a grill. Mississippi State University Athletic Director Scott Stricklin was behind the mic. The late defensive end Nick Bell was represented by his mother, Linda. And the truest Bulldog of them all, Bully XX, was on Maxwell Street.
Hobart and friends conceived the Running of the Bulldogs as Starkville”s answer to Pamplona”s Running of the Bulls. The Bulldog-themed event would conclude with a pack of horned Mississippi Brawl Stars roller derby divas chasing a pack of Bulldog fans down Maxwell Street. But first there were respects to be paid and steaks to be grilled.
Linda Bell made the 2 1/2-hour drive from Hueytown, Ala., to participate in a tribute to her son, Nick Bell, who was lost to cancer at the age of 20. She was also on hand to promote the Nick Bell Mentor Memorial Foundation, which was established to reach out to children like Nick who grew up without a father or need encouragement to overcome their circumstances.
“We want people to be involved in (the foundation) as far as the limits of the land of the United States of America. That”s how many different states I”ve gotten letters of condolence from regarding my boy,” said Linda Bell. “Nick promised me he would be a mentor. He just had a heart for people, period. Children or older adults. In middle school I asked him ”Would you find a child who does not have a father and encourage him? Show him things to make him happier.” And he said he would.”
After Nick passed away last November, Linda formed the foundation to carry on the work he would have done. She said she”ll be back in Starkville a couple more times this month to continue spreading the word.
“Starkville is like I”m at home, because my baby was happy right here,” she said. “He was living his dream and loved everything about being here.”
There would be tribute and eulogy for another fallen Bulldog Saturday, this one a 19-cowbell salute to Bully XIX, who had to be put down recently due to failing health.
Chrestman, the handler and owner of the past six Bullies, was on hand with Bully XX, who was sired by Bully XIX, for the salute.
“It means a lot,” she said, choking up with emotion.
Cooks was on hand with his crew, the Man Cave, to take a stab at the championship steak cook off. It was his first Running of the Bulldogs and his first competitive cooking event, so Cooks, who lives in Starkville, had his game face on.
“I”ve got my Starkville High School apron and my Mississippi State shirt on. We”re trying to intimidate everyone,” said Cooks. “I can”t tell my secrets, but we think we”re pretty good cooks, so we”re going to try our hand against some other people. We”re going to win because we don”t see anyone right now who”s going to beat us.”
Cooks and the Man Cave traditionally cook out for all of MSU”s games.
Stricklin took to the stage to introduce MSU political science professor Whit Waide, who addressed the crowd.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.