I'Tavius Mathers wanted to make a difference when he bypassed his final year of eligibility at Ole Miss and transferred to MTSU.
After sitting out last season, the former Blackman High star and Mr. Football Award winner has done just that.
Going into Saturday's Hawaii Bowl against the host Rainbow Warriors, Mathers has rushed for a school-record 1,504 yards and 16 touchdowns and is second on the team with 62 receptions for 589 yards and three scores.
"I'm just looking forward to the whole bowl atmosphere," Mathers said. Like coach (Rick) Stockstill said, many of us don't get the chance to go see nice places like this, so I'll take lots of pictures and send them to my family.
"I'm all about winning, so when I transferred, the only thing that was on my mind was winning championships and winning games, which we won a lot of games."
MTSU goes into the Hawaii Bowl with an 8-4 record, while the Rainbow Warriors are 6-7. There's also a chance the Blue Raiders will go into the game with starting quarterback Brent Stockstill, who suffered a broken collarbone on Nov. 5 against Texas-San Antonio.
"I'm always good. There's never a question about that," Brent Stockstill said." I'm always ready to get back to practice with the guys and run around a little bit. I feel good. I feel healthy.
"I feel like if it was up to me, I'd say I'm ready to go, but it's not up to me. We'll just keep checking in with the doctors. I'm very optimistic about it, but I'm not going to get my hopes up. We'll see what happens."
Added coach Stockstill: "I'm very optimistic. He's practiced for a while now. He is throwing the ball well. Each week we get an X-ray to see how the healing is coming along, and it's coming along good. We don't know yet. We are preparing like it's going to be OK, but we won't know that for another few days. I'm optimistic with what I've seen and what he has done so far."
While it is a unique opportunity for the players, it's still a business trip, coach Stockstill said.
"Our main objective is to win the game," he said. "When we are here, we are going to work. Nobody is going to work harder than us, whether it's lifting weights, in meeting rooms or on the practice field. I'm not monopolizing their whole day. We put in a few hours in the morning and we put in a few hours in the afternoon. They have some time off here in the afternoon and evenings where they can hang out with each other and they can go to the mall and buy me a Christmas present or whatever they want to do.
"There is a fine line, and I think this team is mature enough to understand that. They are going to get up earlier there. We'll have wake-up calls at 7, meetings at 8, which is 12 o'clock on our clock. We have to get on Hawaii time the day we get there. As soon as we land, we are going to the stadium to practice. That's how important this is to me and how important it is to our team. There will be activities they get to do that will be incredible experiences that will be a lot of fun. There will be time to have fun and enjoy it, and there will be a time to buckle down and understand why we are there."
Reach sports editor Monte Hale Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org