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September 14, 2012To celebrate 100 Years of Southern Miss Football, BigGoldNation.com is bringing readers a series of features on great players throught the years.
In the first edition we sit down with former Southern Miss linebacker and current Tennessee Titan Gerald McRath.
McRath still has passion for Southern Miss football
Gerald McRath is still not exactly sure what made him choose the University of Southern Mississippi as his college destination.
While taking his official visit to the Southern Miss campus, McRath was not real impressed with his first glimpse of the Hattiesburg campus.
"I took my first visit here and I remember it being really cold and wet and the team was practicing for the Liberty Bowl," McRath said. "There really wasn't a whole lot going on and all of the students had left campus.
"Honestly, the visit wasn't very impressive but one thing I took away from it was how close everyone on the team was. All of the players seemed like they were there for one another and had a special bond between them. I was impressed by that."
After making all his official visits, McRath could not stop thinking about the possibility of playing for the Golden Eagles.
"Earlier that year, I had gone to the South Florida game and I had gotten to see the defense play and I knew that was the kind of defensive philosophy and tradition that I wanted to be a part of," McRath said. "My other visits were BYU, East Carolina and Auburn. I was thinking I was going to Auburn but I just had a feeling while visiting their campus that Southern Miss was where I needed to be.
"I can't describe it. Something inside just told me that going to Southern Miss was the right decision and I went with it. My parents were even surprised I chose Southern Miss over Auburn but I felt like this program and the coaching staff fit me."
McRath considers this one of the better decisions of his life and feels privileged to have learned so much while here at Southern Miss from former head coach Jeff Bower.
"Coach Bower is special because he is the one who recruited me here to Southern Miss," McRath said. "He just had such a love and passion for the university and he wanted us to feel the same way.
"He realized that we weren't as big as some schools in a lot of areas but he taught us that we could accomplish and be proud of what we had by working hard and believe in ourselves. He wanted us to take pride in what our program stood for. Instead of complaining about what we didn't have compared to some of the bigger schools, he let us use it as a chip on our shoulder when teams would overlook us or think of us as the underdog. I still kind of have the chip on my shoulder in the NFL and it has helped me get to where I am."
Coach Larry Fedora only coached McRath for one season but had a positive impact on the standout linebacker.
"Coach Fedora brought energy, excitement, and intensity to the program as well," McGrath said. "Coach Fedora brought so much emotion and passion to our football team and made us want to play hard every single day for him.
"Both Coach Fedora and Coach Bower were great coaches and helped me reach my goal of being able to play in the NFL."
Even after playing in stadiums throughout the NFL, McRath says nothing compares with the feeling he got playing at Southern Miss.
"There is nothing like running out at The Rock in the black and gold on game day," McRath said. "This is a special place for me. No matter where I play in the NFL, The Rock will always be home to me. I look forward to bringing my kids there and showing them where I played and where I experienced college."
McRath feels a special loyalty to his alma mater and is happy with the choice he made as a high school senior.
"I lived on campus here for five years, played football here, and got my degree here. I shed my blood, sweat, and tears here at this university. Southern Miss helped me grow from a boy to a man and I wouldn't be the person I am today if I had not had the experiences I went through at Southern Miss. I love this university and will always have a place in my heart for it."
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