Mississippi State University has a rich tradition in football and military service, though these two may not seem connected. Football uses a lot of terms from war such as field general, captain, command, trenches, air raids, defense and blitzes.
With the game this Saturday, these two worlds will combine. Not only will it be MSU's military appreciation day and the last game of the season, head coach Joe Moorhead said MSU will also wear jerseys honoring a Bulldog who put his school, his state and his country first.
“It is the final home game of the year,” Moorhead said. “Sunday was Veterans Day, so thanks to all the people who served our country. We will wear special uniforms honoring World War II hero and Mississippi statesman, Sonny Montgomery, and recognize our veterans this weekend.”
G.V “Sonny” Montgomery was a 1943 MSU graduate from Meridian, and served in the U.S. Army as a second Lieutenant in World War II. After the war, he served in the active duty National Guard during the Korean War, and retired from the Mississippi National guard as a Major General.
Montgomery also served his state, and country in government by serving in the state senate for 10 years before being elected to congress in 1966. As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Montgomery introduced chapter 30 of the G.I. Bill, which allowed servicemen to better access college. Montgomery served in the U.S. House from 1967-1997, and in 2005, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former President George W. Bush.
MSU will honor him with an adidas uniform, inspired by the Mississippi Air National Guard C-17 Globesman III, which is named in spirit of G.V. Montgomery. Moorhead said the uniforms they will wear are phenomenal, and the players are excited to wear them.
“If you look at the reasoning behind it, what it stands for and the person we are honoring, I think that is the most impressive thing," Moorhead said. "Kids like nice stuff, particularly in this day of age. I have three of them and I know they like nice shiny things, and these uniforms, although we have different combinations, these are even unique to that.”
Nick Fitzgerald, a senior quarterback from Richmond Hills, Georgia, said he was excited about the uniforms because he always wanted to wear a gray uniform, and the fact it has additional meaning is important to him.
“It is a meaningful thing to do,” Fitzgerald said. “To honor somebody, and to honor our own armed forces like that. On top of me really liking the jersey, coming from a military family, I also understand the other side of it.”
Fitzgerald has a unique connection to the military, as he was born in Bitburg, Germany, on Spangdahlem Air Force Base. Fitzgerald moved to Panama City, Florida, Pirogue, Illinois, and then moved to Richmond Hills, Georgia, where his family stayed after his seventh grade year. Fitzgerald said his childhood consisted of going to the Air Force bases to visit his father.
“From the time I was born, to the time I was in seventh grade,” Fitzgerald said. “Seeing Dad during the day was taking a trip to the base, and going and seeing him deployed three times and having to do drill weekends.”
While his father served, Fitzgerald said his father was always there to help him in sports, and he said it was very important to have a father who spent time with his children.
“He was also a dad who coached me in every sport, always found time to be around,” Fitzgerald said. “It was huge to have a dad that was able to do all of that while still staying home enough to really grow up with the kids and coach me.”
Fitzgerald’s grandfather and his older brother were in the Army, and he said his many connections definitely makes him appreciate the military, and the honor of this Veteran's game.
Moorhead also has a personal connection to the military, as his father served in the U.S. Army. With the honoring of those veterans and active duty members of the services, he said a military appreciation game is important to him.
“Freedom isn't free, and we bear the fruits of democracy every day for the people who put their lives on the line to ensure the things we are privy to in this country,” Moorhead said. “So any chance we have to honor people who sacrifice to allow us to have those things is incredibly important."
Another player who has a connection to military members is Justin Johnson, a senior tight end from Birmingham, Alabama, whose younger brother just graduated from basic training last Saturday.
“We all have different paths, we do different things,” Johnson said. “My brother wanted to play football, and he also wanted to pursue that thing as well.”
Johnson described what it is like to have someone close serve, as he has his uncle and his brother who just became an airman in the Air Force.
“Last weekend he graduated,” Johnson said. "It was pretty special to see him do that, and make that accomplishment. Especially fresh out of high school.”
Saturday is the last game the seniors will play at home, as well as the 2018 Military Appreciation Game. Kickoff is at 11 a.m., and Johnson said he wants to see one thing from the MSU family.
“Just everybody up at 11 o’clock to see us in those uniforms,” Johnson said. “Just to support us as we take on Arkansas.”