August 18, 2009 9:26:00 AM
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State students were welcomed back to campus Monday afternoon with the season''s first pep rally at the drill field.
A gathering of several hundred students listened to MSU President Mark Keenum, Starkville mayor Parker Wiseman, and MSU football coach Dan Mullen speak in a steady drizzle.
The MSU cheerleaders and band also were present to help energize the crowd.
"I''m so proud and honored to be with you on this wonderful, beautiful day to show our true maroon Bulldog spirit," said Keenum, making light of the falling rain.
Keenum spoke of MSU''s tradition and how the school is not only the biggest university in the state, but it also, in his opinion, is the best. He calls the faculty and staff world class.
With many cowbells ringing in the background, Keenum understood what most of the students wanted to hear.
"We also want to celebrate our upcoming athletic season with football season right around the corner," Keenum said. "We''re excited about Dan Mullen. I''ve watched our Dawgs out in the heat and working very, very hard, and they look good. I''m fired up."
Mullen was impressed with the way the students supported the pep rally when the weather wasn''t the best.
He said it will take a similar response when the Bulldogs get ready to open the season.
"We need your support rain or shine Sept. 5 when we play Jackson State in our home opener because we''ll be there rain or shine," Mullen said. "Student tickets go on sale next Monday, so make sure you get there early and pack that stadium every single week."
Mullen calls the home schedule, which includes LSU (Sept. 26), Georgia Tech (Oct. 3), Florida (Oct. 24), Alabama (Nov. 14), and Ole Miss (Nov. 28), the "best schedule in college football this year."
He encouraged students to be a part of a unique experience this season as MSU attempts to pull off an upset or two along the way.
Mullen introduced volleyball coach Jenny Hazelwood, women''s basketball coach Sharon Fanning, baseball coach John Cohen, and women''s golf coach Kristi Sanders.
"I know we take a lot of pride in everything all the student groups do on campus, and I hope you do the same back to us because every time Mississippi State wins a championship, we all win," Mullen said. "We''re all proud of this school, and we''re all proud of the state we represent. We''re all one big giant family at Mississippi State."