August 19, 2014 10:30:05 PM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State senior Jamerson Love admits that he cracked a smile when he saw an ESPN.com article that listed him as one of the top 10 cornerbacks in the Southeastern Conference.
But five minutes later, that smile - and the inspiration for it - was forgotten.
"It made me smile," said Love, "and it made me feel good. But I really can't listen to any of that. It's good to be recognized, but right now I'm just focused on my senior year and helping our defense get better."
There's not that much room for improvement. With Love and junior Taveze Calhoun returning, MSU has two of the league's most battle-tested cornerbacks. Love and Calhoun each recorded three interceptions a year ago and helped bolster a Bulldogs' pass defense that allowed just one touchdown over the season's final four games.
Further, the Bulldog defense finished fifth in the league in both interceptions and passing defense, both numbers that Love wants to improve upon.
"I think we were better at the end of last year," said Love, who started 10 games in 2013. "But we still can get better from here. We can't be satisfied. Personally, since I know this is my last year, I want to attack every practice and every game as hard as I can. I want to make it count."
It's Love's commitment to improving that has caught the eye of MSU cornerbacks coach Deshea Townsend.
"All of these guys, they want to be great," said Townsend, a former Super Bowl-winning CB with the Pittsburgh Steelers. "They don't want to settle for just being good, they want to be great. When your older guys like Jamerson Love and Taveze Calhoun are pushing for greatness, that makes everyone around them want to make that same push."
Love has had that desire for greatness since the day he picked up a football. A three-star prospect out of Aberdeen High School in 2010, Love was listed as the No. 22 athlete in the state by recruiting service Rivals.com.
A running back for much of his high school career, Love led the Bulldogs to the Class 3A state title game in 2009, where Aberdeen lost to Tylertown, which was led by future MSU teammate Jameon Lewis.
Once he signed with the Bulldogs, Love made the switch from offense to defense and eventually landed at cornerback, where he has become one of the team's steadiest players.
As a true freshman, Love earned All-SEC freshman honors after an 18-tackle, one-interception season. His growth into one of MSU's defensive leaders kicked into overdrive during his sophomore and junior seasons, as Love improved to 25 tackles and a pick in 2012 before breaking through with 27 tackles and three picks a season ago.
According to Calhoun, Love's greatest asset has nothing to do with his on-field skills.
"Jamerson is one of the hardest workers on the team," said Calhoun, who was listed in the same ESPN.com piece as the league's No. 2 CB. "When we look over and see him working as hard as he does, it makes me want to work even harder."
For Love, the decision to work as hard as possible isn't a decision at all.
"That's just what it takes," said Love. "I want to be as good as I can be and I want this team to be one of the best teams in the country. But nobody hands it to you. We've got to earn it."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brandon Walker on Twitter @BWonStateBeat