Felker enters fifth decade with MSU football
Rockey Felker enters his fifth decade with the MSU football program. (Kim Murrell/SDN)
Rockey Felker has been associated with five decades of Mississippi State football.
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After his playing days at MSU, Felker also began his coaching career during the 70s. He became head coach of the Bulldogs in the 80s and his final year was 1990, then returned to MSU in 2002 and is in his second season as the Director of Player Personnel and High School Relations.
"There are a lot of memories and it's had to believe I've been a part of Mississippi State for that number of years," Felker said. "I still felt like I did when I was in college. I feel at home here."
Felker, who said being part of the Bulldogs is still like living out a dream, was born in Corinth and grew up in Jackson, Tenn. He and his father Edwin "Babe" Felker would attend MSU games in Memphis and make it to Starkville when they could.
"My dad loved Mississippi State and I grew up in Tennessee listening to Jack Cristil," Felker said.
Playing for the Bulldogs is something Felker said, "I didn't think would ever happen."
Felker made his decision to attend MSU while watching the Bulldogs defeat the Archie Manning-led Ole Miss Rebels 19-14 in Oxford. He was one of the last 30-40 signees for the Bulldogs.
After one year of playing freshman football, Felker became a regular behind center at MSU and led the 1974 team to a 9-3 record, leading the Southeastern Conference in total offense and helped the Bulldogs beat North Carolina in the Sun Bowl.
Felker began his coaching career at MSU in 1975 working with the junior varsity, then was the receivers and running backs coach of the Bulldogs from 1976-78.
He made assistant coaching stops at Texas Tech (1979-80), Memphis State (1981-82) and Alabama (1983-85) before becoming the head coach at MSU from 1986-90.
With a 6-5 record in 1986, Felker became the first Bulldog head coach to post a winning record in his first season since Darrell Royal did it in 1954.
Felker departed MSU after the 1990 season and spent 11 more seasons in college as an assistant, serving two stints as offensive coordinator at Tulsa (1991-92, 1997-99) and at Arkansas (1993-96).
Since returning to the Bulldogs in 2002, Felker has served under three head coaches in Jackie Sherrill, Sylvester Croom and now Dan Mullen. He was Coordinator of Football Operations from 2002-06, running backs coach and recruiting coordinator from 2007-08 and his current position from 2009 to present.
While Mullen made his adjustment to being a first-time head coach last season, he leaned heavily on the experience of Felker.
Mullen said Felker helps take away the pressure of speaking engagements, establishing relations with the university, high school players and former players and has even asked his opinion on certain coaching decisions.
"I'll check with Rockey on different situations at practice and things that we're doing," Mullen said.
Felker, who has been a busy man this week by speaking to the Rotary Club on Monday and the Kiwanis Club on Tuesday, expressed his thanks to Mullen for letting him remain a part of the program and welcoming his input.
"He's been real good to me," Felker said. "He's asked me for different opinions whether it be football, recruiting or things I can help him out with. He's a good coach and has the program headed in a good direction. I just want to help out any way I can.
Mullen understands Felker's popularity and what he means to MSU.
"Rockey is a great ambassador of the university and he's been here so long," Mullen said. "He's so familiar with everybody and it's really comfortable with a new coaching staff. When former players come back, there's a familiar face to go hang out with and talk to. They get to meet the coaches and meet the new players.
"He creates a real comfortable bond with the Mississippi State of old and Mississippi State of new with the football program."