There is more to life than just football, and the same can be said about a bowl game. On the surface, a bowl game is just a football game. However, as the Mississippi State University players, coaching staff and their families learned, bowl games are more than that.
In his opening statement in the press conference, head coach Joe Moorhead expressed his appreciation to Outback Bowl chairman Todd Timmerman.
"Certainly we are very appreciative of the committee for extending the opportunity for us to be here," Moorhead said. "This was a great week for us, for our players and our families. One of the best bowl schedules and setups we have been around. It was awesome for our guys."
Osirus Mitchell, a sophomore wide receiver from Sarasota, Florida, said they had a great time during the week of the bowl game.
"We had a very good time; we went to the beach and rode jet skis," Mitchell said. "We parasailed. We had a great time in Tampa. I really love the weather, and the weather was great every day, so we really did enjoy every day being here."
The long season came to an end on the first day of January, as the Bulldogs lost the Outback Bowl in heart-breaking fashion. However, the week of relaxation and recreation was a nice change as Mitchell said.
"It was actually refreshing," Mitchell said. "Being in Florida, in this great weather, just chilling before the game. It was really refreshing to us, and I feel like this can carry on to the next season."
As for next season, Willie Gay Jr., a sophomore linebacker from Starkville, said the preparation for next season starts now as they hope to crack eight or nine wins—a number they have been stuck on the past two seasons.
"It starts tomorrow, it starts today actually," Gay said. "From workouts, summer and winter workouts, to spring ball fall camp and on to the next season. We just have to continue to work together as a team and replace leaders."
Leaders like Nick Fitzgerald, Jeffery Simmons and Gerri Green, leave big shoes to fill, and Gay realizes the team will have to step up and fill their positions. While it will be hard to replace them, the remaining Bulldogs have to get ready for the next season without them.
"We know they are very valuable guys, and it is hard to replace those guys on any team that you play for," Gay said. "You have got to get guys in, get guys in who can play to replace Jeffery, Sweat and Gerri, all of them. Football goes on."
Part of the next process is team bonding, and for Gay and the rest of the team, that happened outside of the jersey swaps at practice and dance sessions in the bowl practices.
"We enjoyed ourselves a lot," Gay said. "Team bonding, we really enjoyed ourselves this week. We spent a lot of time together, with our coaches and with our families. It was big for us."
One player in particular whose season came to an end was Jeffery Simmons, a junior defensive end from Macon, who decided to forgo his senior year of football to enter into the NFL draft. Simmons spoke about his appreciation for MSU in giving him a second chance after he had an arrest before his freshman year.
"It has been a blessing, they are the ones who gave me a second chance, and I will never forget that," Simmons said. "It has been a journey like I’ve said. I’m blessed. I’m ready to start my journey, and I know these guys are ready to watch film."
Simmons is headed for the NFL Draft, but for now, his next few steps are to go home to his family and to train for the upcoming draft.
"I’m just going home to my family for a few days, and then I’m off to train and ready to get back to work," Simmons said. "I’m not sure how it is going to be, but I’m going in with laser focus. I think I’m the best defensive end in the draft. I’m ready to attack training like that."
For Simmons, he would love to end up with his dream team and maybe play alongside a former MSU Bulldog; however, he said he is ready to play anywhere.
"Growing up, I was a Cowboys fan, so I would love to end up with the Cowboys," Simmons said. "At the same time, whomever feels the need to draft me, whomever feels like I’m a good fit for them, I’m ready to go to work and make the most of it."