December 12, 2017 10:29:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Blain Winston had just finished a high school career with only one winning season and two playoff wins when Mark Hudspeth sold him a vision. Over the next four years, Winston lived that vision.
Now Hudspeth is selling that vision for Mississippi State.
Winston shared with The Dispatch his memories of playing for Hudspeth, recently hired as MSU's tight ends coach, when he was UL Lafayette's head coach for the last seven years. Hudspeth was one of three recent hires, joining offensive line coach Marcus Johnson and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop. MSU confirmed the Shoop and Johnson hires Sunday but has yet to officially announce the Hudspeth hire; Hudspeth has been recruiting in Louisiana in recent days.
"They're getting a great leader, first and foremost, a great guy," Winston said. "He was a leader from the time he stepped into my living room. Everything he promised to me came to pass. I went to UL, three straight bowl games, four straight winning seasons. He's a man of truth, a man of God, he's just a great man and I feel like (MSU) is getting a steal.
"'We're going to end up with top of the line facilities, take you to bowl game, make sure you play in December almost every year,' and that's what happened."
Winston's relationship with Hudspeth continues to this day, even after his ouster from UL Lafayette. Winston has since returned to his alma mater, Richwood High School in Monroe, Louisiana, as an assistant football coach and he said his team has been welcomed to UL Lafayette's football facility, in addition to his personal visits for homecoming.
When the spring comes and Hudspeth gets to truly coach his players, Winston knows what lies ahead.
"He does it by the book: he believes in hard work before anything," Winston said. "You're going to have to work your butt off if you want to get on the field. It doesn't just start on Saturdays and it doesn't just start during the season, he's big on offseason workouts and really busting your tail to show him that you want it."
For now, Hudspeth is put in the tight spot of replacing both a highly active recruiter and a MSU alum in D.J. Looney, who coached his first season for the Bulldogs this fall. Looney's future remains unclear, but with Hudspeth hired and Johnson in place as the offensive line coach, the position Looney played for MSU, it seems unlikely that he will be in an on-field role in Moorhead's first staff.
Winston does not worry for Hudspeth.
"He took Lafayette by storm. (Hudspeth) could've been the mayor of Lafayette, man, he had everything in his hands," I don't think he'll have a problem winning those fans over."
His Mississippi roots as a native and former Delta State star may help him in that pursuit; Johnson hopes the same happens for him.
Johnson taking over the MSU offensive line is a long-awaited return to his home state for the Coffeyville native and former Ole Miss offensive lineman. Johnson won't have to go far to find an old friend in Starkville: his former Minnesota Vikings teammate, Chris Jones, is the head coach at Starkville High School.
"He's a good Southern guy," Jones told The Dispatch. "That has a lot to do with his upbringing."
Jones and Johnson grew close in their time with the Vikings, even making the drive from Mississippi to Minnesota for preseason camp together a couple of times. Later in Jones' career he played alongside Johnson's brother in Canada.
Jones doesn't see any issues in a former Rebel taking on a spot on the MSU staff.
"He's a Mississippi guy," Jones said. "Whether it's Ole Miss or Mississippi State, whatever the case may be, he's a Mississippi guy. I think he wants to recruit players that he's familiar with: hard-nosed, tough kids that he can find in Mississippi."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
1. More projects to come for MSU Athletics COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Prescott still a hit at MSU LOCAL SPORTS
3. Cohen believes in MSU basketball programs COLLEGE SPORTS