ATLANTA — Tameka Marks carries her son’s picture across the airport on her chest, their shared surname and the number 7 clearly visible.
Her pride in him seems nearly as tangible as the photo on her shirt.
“I’m just ready to see him now,” she said. “Ready to see him play.”
Since Jo’quavious “Woody” Marks started his college football career at Mississippi State in 2020, his mother hasn’t missed a single game. That includes Saturday’s game at Arizona, where neither 1,500 miles of distance nor a 10 p.m. start time could break the streak.
Marks’ crew on Saturday included his mother, his brother Dontavious, his sister, his niece and two friends, all of whom piled aboard a Delta flight out of their native Atlanta on Saturday morning.
Their destination: Tucson, Arizona. Their purpose: to watch Marks compete for the Bulldogs.
As to what else they’ll do in the eight hours between landing and kickoff, they’re unsure.
“We haven’t even thought about it,” Tameka said. “We’re just going. We’ll see when we get there.”
Tameka said she is a seasoned traveler, but while she’s been as far as Las Vegas, she had never been to Arizona until Saturday.
Though she won’t be in town long — Marks’ contingent returns home Sunday morning — her anticipation for the trip rivaled even her son’s.
“I think I might be more excited than him,” she said.
Part of that might have to do with proving Wildcats fans wrong.
Tameka said she spent some time on the 247 Sports fan site dedicated to Arizona and observed the fan base’s supreme confidence in winning Saturday night’s showdown.
“They just know that they’re about to win,” she said. “I just know y’all are about to lose. Hail State.”
She had the same confidence the week before as Mississippi State met Memphis in a rematch of the Bulldogs’ 31-29 road loss in 2021.
Marks scored two touchdowns, MSU dominated 49-23, and Tameka cheered along with the rest of the crowd.
“That was a revenge game right there,” she said. “I was praying that it wasn’t close, and it wasn’t close, so I was happy about that.”
Tameka records every Mississippi State game and watches it the following day. She and Dontavious take notes, telling Marks what he did right and what he did wrong; the junior running back seeks out that advice from his family.
Marks, of course, also gets critiques from the Bulldogs coaching staff in film review.
“He gets a lot of feedback on plays and what he needs to do and what he doesn’t need to do,” Tameka said.
She said the six-person squad that flew to Tucson is smaller than the typical group that comes to cheer Marks on. At most home games, the Bulldogs back has a cheering section 15 strong.
Tameka said she drives to home games and road contests within six hours, so driving to Tucson — almost 24 hours — was not a consideration. The family booked the trip early in 2022 when they saw the Wildcats on the Bulldogs’ schedule.
She said it’s fun to see Marks playing at the Southeastern Conference level, saying “I want to cry every time” she can watch replays of his nationally televised games.
But being there in person is always more special.
“We’re here, and we’re enjoying it,” she said.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.
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