February 9, 2010 9:10:00 PM
Building Mississippi State University football never stops for Dan Mullen, not even thousands of feet in the air.
Mullen didn''t have a typical Monday -- coaching in the Southeastern Conference is far from the average person''s day on the job -- as he saw the friendly skies from the cockpit of a T-6 from Columbus Air Force Base.
Later, he was the guest speaker for the 14th Flying Training Wing''s 2009 Sports Awards Banquet.
Mullen was greeted to cheers and requests for pictures and autographs once the ceremony ended and the 14th Medical Group took home The Commander''s Cup for sweeping the overall sports standings for the third consecutive year.
The attention isn''t anything new for the second-year Mississippi State coach, or any major college football coach. Monday''s event had a couple of special links, though.
First, the tie to athletics and second, Mullen''s father is a retired Major in the Air National Guard.
To Mullen, it was an honor to be the guest speaker at the event.
"Anytime we can do something to thank all the airmen for all they do for us in this country it''s an honor," he said. "I felt honored I was invited to be here. My dad retired from active duty when I was born, and I tell you, he was real excited for me when I let him know I was going to get the chance to do it (fly). He retired from the Air Force several years ago, and it was a neat deal."
Mullen received a plaque commemorating his day in the skies, and in exchange he gave a signed MSU jersey to 14th FTW Acting Commander Col. George H. Ross III.
Said Mullen of his first airmen moment: "I survived. It was a unique experience and a lot of fun to fly over Starkville and see the stadium. We went up, got some clean air space -- I''m not going to say we did a whole lot of tricks -- but we did some things here and there and I survived and am in one piece. It''s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I feel blessed to be given that chance."
Public appearances are a chance to strengthen the MSU fan base, which is especially important considering the proximity between Starkville and Columbus.
That''s why it wasn''t surprising Mullen took a shot at the University of Mississippi when asked if he got to venture up north for a view of Oxford.
"No, we stayed down here ... probably not good airspace up that way," he said.
Mullen''s speech touched on being accountable, working hard, and using every day to "be great." With the parallels drawn between the physical training athletes and soldiers go through, effort is the common denominator in success.
It''s much like Mullen''s relentless push to make MSU the college football brand of choice in the state; it can only cover ground with non-stop promoting, which makes Monday''s appearance one of many steps in the process.
"Every time people come out they''re supporting their state university," Mullen said. "I see that excitement in people around the state, and we''re going to work to take another step forward this season."
Entering his second year after producing one of the most exciting MSU seasons this decade, Mullen is excited to have completed his second recruiting class and is gearing up for what will be a competitive spring season.
"We accomplished our goal in getting the top players in the state of Mississippi to come play for us," Mullen said. "We''re on our way starting on next year''s recruiting class. More importantly, it''s good that recruiting''s over and we''re back on campus, around our team -- it''s really good to get our hands back on our players. Offseason workouts are going pretty good, too."
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