Newly hired Mississippi State head football coach Joe Moorhead talks about his coaching philosophy and his first impressions of Starkville during his introductory press conference Thursday in the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
December 1, 2017 10:08:57 AM
Even before more than 300 fans had gathered Thursday morning to watch Joe Moorhead's introductory press conference at the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex, Mississippi State's new head coach had already made a strong impression.
From the moment Moorhead's plane touched down in Starkville Wednesday afternoon, Moorhead had been saying hello, delaying his exit from the airport to shake hands, sign autographs and mingle happily with an estimated 1,000 fans who turned out for his arrival. He then served cheese fries to MSU students at Bin 612 in the Cotton District well into Wednesday night.
After meeting with the Bulldog team Thursday morning, the 33rd head coach in MSU football history followed university president Mark Keenum and athletics director John Cohen to the podium to address a standing-room-only crowd.
The fans had been busy too, crafting handmade signs that explored all the possible word-plays that could be applied to the man who will replace Dan Mullen, who left MSU for the University of Florida on Sunday after nine successful seasons.
"Moor Cowbell" was the dominant variation, painted not only on signs, but on T-shirts too.
There were a few others: "It just means Moor" (a play of the SEC's marketing slogan), "Moor family," and "Joe Mo has our MoJo."
In a matter of 48 hours, the former Penn State assistant coach had gone from obscurity to hero status in Starkville.
"For my family and I, this was our first extended journey into the South, and when you hear the term Southern hospitality, we found out it's a real thing," Moorhead said in his opening comments. "There must have been 1,000, 2,000 fans out there at the airport. I must have signed 500 cowbells. I've signed a hand, I think. ... I shook a bunch of hands. I even took a picture with a dog, so that was unique."
For about 40 minutes, Moorhead, 44, provided a detailed account of everything from why he accepted the MSU job to his coaching philosophy, plans for recruiting, putting together a coaching staff and expectations for players and goals, which included competing for SEC and National championships and making sure "that dang Egg Bowl (trophy) stays home here."
Among the qualities Moorhead said he valued in players is unselfishness -- "players who care more about team success than individual recognition."
In that respect, there's some evidence Moorhead practices what he preaches.
Moorhead's pay structure was distributed to the media before the start of the press conference. He'll earn $2.6 million in his first season, which will increase at $100,000 increments in each of the following three years.
His salary is likely to be among the lowest among the SEC's 14 head coaches.
"Of the things we discussed, his pay was probably one of the things we spent the least amount of time on," Cohen said. "He said, 'What you are offering to me is great. I want to make sure we take care of our staff so that we have the best staff in America. That's what's important to me.'"
Moorhead also made it clear the enthusiasm he has shown for the fans over the past 48 hours is here to stay.
"This is a game because of the fans," he said. "As much as we can, we want to have them around and have them be a part of the fabric of our team and our program. You go out there on game day, and they are what make us tick. So everything we can do to make them feel part of the team, we're gong to do."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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