Justin Johnson, a senior wide receiver from Birmingham, Alabama, walked out of the tunnel onto Scott Field at Davis Wade Stadium one last time as a Mississippi State University Bulldog for the military appreciation game.
Johnson's brother, who had just graduated from Air Force basic training, attended making Johnson's senior day even better.
“I had my shades on just in case I started crying,” Johnson said. “I didn’t cry. It was almost overwhelming, but you just had to take it like every time you went out the tunnel, it was special.”
The C-17, named the "Spirit of Sonny Montgomery," performed a low fly-by over the stadium as the national anthem finished, and then it made a second pass over the stadium before kickoff. Johnson was unable to see the plane fly over, but wore the uniforms inspired by the plane and man G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery.
“I didn’t see it, I actually saw a snapchat of it. It was a big plane going over the stadium, and I have never seen anything like it before,” Johnson said. “We always like new uniforms, but the meaning behind them was even better, and who we were doing it for.”
Another Bulldog who was impacted by their last home game was Nick Fitzgerald, senior quarterback from Richmond Hills, Georgia, who thanked the coaches for giving him the opportunity and shaping him into the man he is today. Thankful for his journey, he said he is going to miss his teammates the most.
“I love everybody on the team,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve been grinding with them for a long time. Definitely a chapter of my life that when I’m older I will look back on, and be really happy about. I will enjoy tonight, spend time with my family.”
Perhaps the biggest thing Fitzgerald will miss from game days in Davis Wade is "Don’t Stop Believing" by Journey, which is played in between the third and fourth quarter. Fitzgerald said he just sat there and soaked it all in.
“I definitely sat there and enjoyed the last 'Don’t Stop Believing,'” Fitzgerald said. “It is pretty obvious that in games where we are winning big, or games that we are having a good time, they're on the sideline belting it out having a good job.”
Johnathan Abram, a senior safety from Columbia, Mississippi, who originally started his SEC career at University of Georgia, said the game meant something he never knew before he became an MSU Bulldog. When he was a Georgia Bulldog, games did not mean as much to him, which was a big part of why he chose to come back to Mississippi.
“That was a major reason for why I came back and chose Mississippi State,” Abram said. “When I was at Georgia, when we played Georgia Tech, it did not mean that much to me. When I was at Auburn, it did not mean that much to me, because I was not from there. Coming out and playing with all my friends on senior day, it felt really good to play together.”
Moorhead said Abram had taken on a captain and leadership role, despite not having a "C" on his chest. Abram said he thought a captain has to be there for four years, and while he is not technically a captain, he tries his best to be a role model for his other teammates.”
“For me, part of being a captain, it requires being here for four years,” Abram said. “Nick (Fitzgerald) and Gerri (Green), they deserve that and I can not take that from them. I just utilize my role, because I know a lot of guys follow me and look up to me. So I just try to be the best role model to all of those guys–young and old.”
One of the players who was able to grow under Abram and who worked his way to a starting position last week against University of Alabama and this week against Arkansas, was C.J.Morgan. He had his first interception in the game, but he was not able to return it as far as he wanted to.
“I wanted to run the ball back of course,” Morgan said. “I was like, 'Shoot, I’m tired,' it was a long drive. So I was just like, 'Go down and celebrate the interception.' It is extremely special, I’m very thankful for Coach Shoop giving me the opportunity.”
Abram and the other seniors will also play in their last Egg Bowl for MSU this Thanksgiving, as the Bulldogs travel to Oxford to play the University of Mississippi. Abram said he has one mission on his mind, and it is to get the golden trophy with the “egg” on top.
“It is going to mean a lot,” Abrams said. "Last year, they got the Egg Bowl, so we are going to try and get the trophy back."