Croom challenges crowd

Published 11:26 am Friday, February 23, 2007

Sylvester Croom had a challenge for his audience Thursday night.

“Make your life’s purpose be to help other people.”

Croom headlined the Miss-Lou Chapter of The National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame’s 26th Annual Awards Banquet, held at the Eola Hotel.

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Among the many things Croom told the more than 300 fans assembled was to devote their lives to improving the lives of others.

“At this stage of my life, wins and losses are still important for me, but I want to know that all the work I did built something,” he said. “I want to improve the lives of young men. We want to win, but we want to count something further. We want our players to get an education and be a positive influence in society.”

Also during the evening’s festivities, seven Miss-Lou athletes were honored with college scholarships of at least $1,000.

Thomas Ballard, Cathedral’s senior center, received the top prize of $2,250.

“You’ve got all these other guys here who probably deserve it more than I do,” Ballard said following the banquet. “They’re all better athletes than I am. I’d love to keep playing, but I’m happy just to be here and get to spend time with the friends I’ve made over the last few years.”

Ballard said he plans to attend Mississippi College and major in pre-med.

Taylor Hinson of Trinity Episcopal received the second-largest scholarship, $2,000.

Josh Calcote of ACCS received $1,750, and Billy Rouse of Vidalia, Dra’Carl Walker of Ferriday, Broderick Morgan of Natchez High and Colin Stacy of Huntington each received $1,000 scholarships.

In other awards given out on the night, Dave “Rosco” Kimbro received the Contributor to Amateur Athletics Award, Terry Estes received the Distinguished American Award and J.J. Whitehead received the Joe Fortunato Celebrity Golf Classic Award.

Croom told stories from his time in the National Football League, and of the two players he was “most honored to be on a football field with” — Walter Payton, formerly of the Chicago Bears, and Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers.

Croom stressed the Packers’ team-oriented organization, and said he and his staff are attempting to instill that form of discipline in the Mississippi State football program.

He also took the time to praise two Miss-Lou members of his team.

“We’re very proud of Anthony Strauder and J.D. Hamilton (both Natchez High graduates),” Croom said. “They’re both going to be part of our offensive line and we’re very glad to have them.”

While bringing the Bulldog football to prominence is Croom’s job, he said his goals are much higher.

“I’m for Mississippi,” he said. “I want to change the image of this state. I want to show the world that Mississippi is not burning. We want to bring an SEC championship to Mississippi State, but we want to change Mississippi’s image even more.”