SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Mississippi rarely gets the credit it deserves in terms of football talent. People always mention Florida, California, Texas and Georgia as the top states for producing talent and in terms of sheer numbers they are. However, when you break down the numbers per capita of each state no state produces more NFL players than the Magnolia State.
The top three players in the state of Mississippi according to Rivals.com are playing in the all-star game in San Antonio and all looked more than capable of representing the state quite well this week at the game.
Wayne County defensive tackle Jerrell Powe, Collins offensive lineman Josh McNeil and South Panola defensive back Derek Pegues are all participating on the West team. Yes, that's right the West team, even the guys themselves found that one a little strange, but nonetheless they are thrilled with the opportunity.
"This is a great opportunity for us," McNeil said.
"I am just honored to be here representing the state of Mississippi. I saw a statistic on Rivals.com one time that the state of Mississippi produces more NFL players per capita than any other state in the country. I think sometimes we get overlooked because the population in Mississippi isn't all that high, but I think our guys are as good as they are anywhere.
"I am hoping that we can come out here and prove that this week, having three guys here I think we can really make a statement."
One guy that is unmistakable out on the football field is Powe.
Again, in some ways it does look a little odd seeing players that hail from SEC country prancing around on the West coast team, then again it only takes a second of watching them on the practice field to realize they aren't like the rest of the guys.
"It's just an honor to be out here with all of these great players," Powe said.
"I thought it was kind of funny at first with them putting us on the West team, but that is how they have it set up so these guys are my teammates for a week. These are supposedly the top 78 players in the whole nation so to be considered one of them makes you feel good. We are just out here trying to word hard and represent our home state."
Games like the all-star game in San Antonio are a chance for some of the nation's best to showcase their talent against other top players. It is a chance for the guys to see how they can perform against the heightened level of competition. Virtually every player selected to play in the game has dominated the competition that they have played against the past few years, but in a game like this everyone is good.
"This is just really a great experience for all of us," Powe said.
"There is a lot of talent out there on our defense, especially on the defensive line. It was a little bit different out there today because these players are so much better than the one's that you are used to playing against. It's a great opportunity though because this gives you a little bit of a preview of what it is going to be like when you get to college."
Even though the two prospects played on two different teams located about an hour and a half away they have known each other for a couple of year's now. However, due to the fact that they play in different classification's the two have never faced each other. That is until Monday afternoon's first practice.
"I have known him for several years now," McNeil said.
"We have gotten to know each other a lot better through all of this recruiting stuff. He is real good and he is just a load to handle. I mean when you have a guy that weighs over 300 pounds and is as quick as he is they are always going to be tough to deal with. I pretty much knew it coming in, but after today I can say that he is the real deal for sure."
Powe also gave high remarks to his teammate for the week, citing that McNeil is one of the few players that have ever given him problems.
"He is real good," Powe said. "I was very impressed with him. He is real strong and he comes off the ball very fast. I think the thing that makes Josh so good though is that he stays on his block until the whistle blows. A lot of offensive lineman will go hard for a few seconds, but not Josh he goes hard all the time and he does it every play."
McNeil has already ended the recruitment process as he announced that he would be attending the University of Tennessee. He stated today that he was through with the process and would not be taking any other visits, but Powe has not closed the chapter on his recruitment.
"I am going to announce at the game on Saturday," Powe said. "That is more like a probably than a definite, but more than likely I am going to announce. I will be announcing between Auburn, LSU and Ole Miss.
"I do still plan on taking an official visit to LSU on January 21 and one to Ole Miss on January 28 though. That is the plan right now anyway. I have already been to Auburn. I have my mind made up already. It's just a matter of announcing it now."