Mississippi State football coach Arnett, AD Selmon visit with fans in Vicksburg

Published 3:11 pm Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Zach and Zac came to yack, and left Vicksburg’s Mississippi State fans wanting them back.

Football head coach Zach Arnett and athletic director Zac Selmon visited the River City Tuesday as part of Mississippi State’s Road Dawgs Tour. They chatted with fans and posed for photos, then participated in a panel discussion with radio announcer Bart Gregory during a lunch program at the B.B. Club on Clay Street.

Arnett said the tour is a good way for he and Selmon to familiarize themselves with fans and alumni — both are in their first year in their respective jobs — and show appreciation for their support.

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“It’s an opportunity for us to show our appreciation to the fan base,” Arnett said. “Starkville is a special place. The fan base is maybe the most loyal, united in the country. It’s an opportunity for me and Zac Selmon to get out here and show our gratitude and appreciation for everything they do to support us.”

The two Zachs covered several topics during the panel discussion. After talking about their backgrounds and visions for the program, they touched on NIL (name, image and likeness) issues.

Selmon made a pitch for fans and alumni to buy season tickets as well as donate to Mississippi State’s Bulldog Initiative, which pools money for NIL deals for athletes.

“You, the people, have more influence on shaping the roster now than at any time in college football,” Arnett told the audience.

Arnett also talked about filling the shoes of former coach Mike Leach, who died in December. Arnett spent three seasons as Leach’s defensive coordinator at Mississippi State and was promoted to the head coach position before the team’s appearance in the ReliaQuest Bowl against Illinois.

Leach spoke at the B.B. Club the last time the Road Dawgs Tour came to Vicksburg in 2021. It was a freewheeling session in which he took audience questions on mostly non-football topics.

Two years later, Arnett’s appearance was a bit more formal by design. Although Arnett’s job is to follow Leach as Mississippi State’s coach, he said Leach was a unique character in the sport that no one could — or should — try to imitate.

“You think about what Mike Leach meant to the game of football. He might be the most innovative guy in the last 25 years. His influence, you can see it all over college and the NFL,” Arnett said. “I was incredibly blessed and fortunate to get to spend three years learning under him and hopefully suck up some of his wisdom. You’re never going to duplicate him. To try would be stupid. I’ll be myself and let the chips fall where they may.”

Tuesday’s Vicksburg stop was No. 7 of 10 on the monthlong Road Dawgs Tour, and the second of five in three days.
Another stop was scheduled in Jackson on Tuesday evening, and then a Texas two-fer with lunch in Tyler and dinner in Houston wraps it all up on Wednesday.

Along with recruiting and offseason work, Arnett said it was a busy time of year even though it’s during the lull before summer workouts begin in earnest.

“They’re not all consecutive, so you get a little chance to rest. But with the transfer portal and recruiting you have to get back to the facility and still do your football job,” Arnett said. “As coaches, we have no room to complain. Going around to all of these great cities, people being nice to you and eating all of these catered lunches, life ain’t too bad. Don’t feel sorry for us.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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