By JOEL COLEMAN
As 12-year-old Joshua Freeman made his 160-mile trek from Ellisville to Starkville on Saturday for Mississippi State’s Fan Day, he did so with one primary goal in mind.
“I want to meet Dak Prescott,” Freeman said.
Freeman was just one of several thousand Bulldog fans to gather at MSU’s Palmeiro Center for the chance to get autographs and photos from Mississippi State athletes and coaches.
Mississippi State assistant coordinator of marketing Rhett Hobart, one of the key behind-the-scenes organizers of Saturday’s occasion, said over 5,000 schedule posters were distributed to fans within under an hour of doors opening for the two-hour event.
“This has definitely been our biggest crowd ever for an event like this,” Hobart said.
Hobart credited MSU personnel for putting on the successful festivities for what he dubbed “the best fans in the country.”
“Months of planning goes into this,” Hobart said. “We’ve gone through 150 barricades, a bunch of tables and chairs, so it’s just a team effort from our whole staff and whole department.
“I think excitement is at an all-time high and you can tell because these lines are incredible. Lines were wrapped around the coliseum before we opened the doors.”
Mississippi State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz had a unique perspective Saturday. In his first year back with the Bulldogs since departing after the 2010 season, Diaz can recall his previous fan day experience. In comparing the two occasions, Diaz said Saturday blew five years ago away.
“This has been nothing like the fan day we had going into 2010,” Diaz said. “I think you can still feel the momentum coming off of last year’s season. Everybody’s excited and it’s fun for the (players) to get a feel for the excitement of the community.”
In orchestrating defenses for a living, Diaz is fully aware of how big a role fan support has in the success of a team. He’s looking forward to seeing many of the fans that were inside the Palmeiro Center packing Davis Wade Stadium this fall.
“It wouldn’t be the same game if we played in empty stadiums,” Diaz said.
Before then, Diaz says fan day can already serve to give players a boost. Still battling through intense practices under the hot August sun, Diaz believes events like Saturdays give the players a sense of purpose.
“These guys have worked insanely hard for the last three weeks,” Diaz said. “So to have the opportunity to come out here today, it’s neat for the fans to rub elbows with the players, but it’s neat for the players to rub elbows with the fans and pat the fans on the back.
“Some days, the players may wonder if all the work is really worth it and when they get to see all this, they get the feel that it actually is.”