March 24, 2009
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen already considers quarterback Tyson Lee, of Columbus, a champion before he sees what he can do on the practice field today.
That''s because Lee is one of 16 Bulldogs chosen to the "Champions Club," which is made up of players who excelled on and off the field in offseason conditioning and met standards set by their position group.
The recognition is broken down into four quarters, with the first consisting of the pre-spring workout period, the second includes spring practice, the third quarter is the summer, and the fourth is the season.
"It recognizes the players who live their life like a champion on the field, in academics, discipline, weight room, and conditioning," Mullen said. "All of those things make you a champion."
Joining Lee in receiving "Champions Club" distinction in the first quarter are Derek Sherrod, another Lowndes County product from Caledonia, Wade Bonner, Marvin Bure, Jamar Chaney, Brandon Cooper, Aaron Feld, Devin Jones, Cameron Lawrence, John McMillan, Charles Mitchell, Reggie Odom, Rodney Prince, Quentin Saulsberry, Zach Smith, and Marcus Washington.
Lee said he accepted the challenge Mullen placed before the players about being dedicated in their work.
"Coach Mullen was looking for leaders and we understood that," Lee said. "We wanted to give our best and let the rest take care of itself."
Mullen wants to see continued commitment from the players who have reached "Champions Club" status. He hopes those players will bring more along for the ride.
"We need champions," Mullen said. "It''s not a sometimes deal, but all of the time deal. Those who have bought in to what we''re preaching need to double that. I told them to remain a champion and go get one more to join you so we''ll be up to 32. That''s when we''re getting in the right direction."
MSU''s "Champions Club" success has set the stage for the opening of spring practice at 3:30 p.m. today.
Mullen said some Bulldogs were out of shape to start conditioning, especially on the defensive line, but he has been pleased with the work and the unit has "come a long way."
Lee has noticed the improvement and believes MSU is ready to move to the next phase.
"Anytime new coaches come in and there''s a new offense there is going to be a change, but we''re excited and hopeful for it and believe it''s going to be a good thing," Lee said. "The offseason work coach (Matt) Balis has put us through has prepared us to really get things started on a positive note."
Lee took over at quarterback in the fifth game last season against LSU. He completed 153 of 260 passes for 1,519 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions.
"What a class young man," MSU offensive coordinator Les Koenning said. "I''ve had an opportunity to be around Tyson in our offseason program and he''s given everything he''s had. I''m looking forward to getting him on the football field to see how he does."
Mullen believes Lee possesses the characteristics to become a leader.
Setting the example in the offseason conditioning and being one of the first members of the "Champions Club" will help Lee prove to Mullen he is a leader.
"He works very, very hard," Mullen said. "He does a great job in the classroom and in the community. If he is a great leader, then that is very important."
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