By MATTHEW STEVENS
Mississippi State will have five seniors playing in football postseason all-star games this month.
Four Bulldogs were selected to play in the Under Armour Senior Bowl on Jan. 29. MSU will be represented by the 2010 captains in offensive tackle Derek Sherrod, defensive end Pernell McPhee along with linebackers Chris White and K.J. Wright.
“These four players were instrumental in helping the Bulldogs reach a nine-win season for the first time since 1999,” Senior Bowl President and CEO Steve Hale said in Thursday’s release. “After closing out the year with an impressive Gator Bowl victory over Michigan, we’re excited that all four guys will don the Mississippi State helmet one last time here in Mobile.”
Sherrod, a Columbus native, is a projected first-round draft pick and was one of 16 players among all divisions of the NCAA and NAIA up for the William V. Campbell Trophy. Sherrod will leave Mississippi State with a 3.54 GPA as a business major and received an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship.
“I’m very excited,” Sherrod said. “Whenever I’m granted an opportunity like this I always make sure I take full advantage of it and that’s what I plan on doing. It’s a great atmosphere and I’m looking to have a lot of fun.”
Sherrod finished his career with 33 consecutive starts for the Bulldogs. He was a part of an offensive unit that rushed for more than 200 yards in eight games his senior season and broke the 100-yard mark in 24 of its last 25 contests.
“I’ve always had aspirations of playing in the Senior Bowl because it always features most of the talented rookies for the next year in the NFL,” Sherrod added. “I’m just going down there looking to have fun and compete on one of the biggest levels out there for college football players.”
White, the 2010 Conerly Trophy winner, was a first team All-Southeastern Conference selection by The Associated Press this year after leading the Bulldogs in tackles (110), tackles for loss (15.5) and sacks (6). He earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors twice during the 2010 season.
“It’s definitely a dream, I never really thought it would come true,” White said of receiving an invite Thursday night. “I’ve wanted to play in this game ever since I started playing college football and I’m just glad it happened.”
Wright finished the year ranked second on the team and tenth in the SEC with 98 total tackles. The linebacker also tallied eight tackles for loss and three sacks for the Bulldogs in 2010. He was fourth in the SEC this year with nine pass breakups and enjoyed his best output of the season when he totaled nine tackles and two sacks in a win over Ole Miss.
“I’m real excited, it’s a real honor to be invited to the Senior Bowl,” Wright said. “It’s a great chance for me to go out there and show what I can do and just go out there and compete with the top seniors in the nation.”
McPhee was a first team All-SEC selection by the league coaches and honorable mention pick by The Associated Press. The defensive tackle was second on his team this year with 10 tackles for loss and posted 35 total tackles and two sacks. He was a key member of a defense that ranked third in the SEC this season in scoring defense, surrendering only 19.85 points per game.
The Under Armour Senior Bowl will kickoff at 3 p.m. on January 29 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., with the game televised nationally by the NFL Network.
Bulldogs center J.C. Brignone will play in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 22 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
Brignone started at center while playing in 35 of a possible 37 games during his Mississippi State career on the offensive line. Brignone came to Starkville as a standout two-way prep lineman, initially in the Mississippi High School ranks and then in Georgia when Hurricane Katrina displaced his family for his senior campaign.