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SEC Nation heads to Starkville

DAILY LEADER / KATIE WILLIAMSON / Gary Blair shows off his Maroon-and-white clad office before the big game Saturday.

DAILY LEADER / KATIE WILLIAMSON / Gary Blair shows off his Maroon-and-white clad office before the big game Saturday.

The office was draped in maroon and white. Cowbells and Mississippi State figurines were on display in the bookshelves. Statues of Bully guarded the door. Helmets and old MSU annuals decorated the desk. The room was a tribute to Gary Blair’s passion for his alma mater.

“I actually grew up in Grenada and was an Ole Miss fan,” Blair reluctantly admitted. “I grew up going to Oxford and supporting the Rebels, back in the Archie Manning days, but during my senior year of high school I visited my cousins for a game at Mississippi State. For whatever reason, I fell in love with MSU. I fell in love with Starkville.”

Before that visit, Blair was set to go in to the University of Mississippi dentistry program but changed his mind and wound up going to MSU vet school. He became very involved on campus and even met during his wife in Starkville. His overwhelming love of the bulldogs has only grown stronger with time.

“There is a difference in the supporters of Ole Miss and the supporters of Mississippi State,” said Blair. “I know I’m biased, but I think the Mississippi State people are a little more down to earth and a little friendlier and too humble for our own good.”

Blair has served the school as an alumni. He has served as the local alumni chapter president, on the national board of directors, on the executive committee of the alumni association and even served as the 2003-2004 Mississippi State national alumni president.

“My hobby is Mississippi State,” said Blair.

Blair tries not to miss a game, and this weekend is no exception. The Bulldogs take on the Texas A&M Aggies and will try to join the nations top 10. After their big win two weeks ago against No. 8 Louisiana State University in Tiger Stadium, this game will be huge for the Bulldogs. So big that the SEC Network will be airing SEC Nation from The Junction.

“You just have to take it one step at a time. I’ve seen a lot of great wins. This weekend is just another step. Beating A&M just gets us that much closer to the goal of playing for the championship,” said Blair. “I feel good. I watched Saturday’s win for Arkansas, and I think our defense is better than theirs. I think we can stop them.”

The Mississippi State tailgate in the Junction will be alive with other epic fans like Blair held together by a common thread of MSU love. Among the many maroon tents will be a group of Brookhavenites, who never miss a game.

Blair said the group convenes in the Junction. They are among the first to enter the stadium and are some of the last to leave.

The sign of any good sports fan is their sportsmanship and even though it’s hard for Blair to root for other teams, he said his ultimate goal is for Ole Miss and MSU to play the egg bowl for the SEC championship.

“I think Coach Mullen and Coach Freeze have both teams headed to the SEC championship way. It would be great if one of them could get there this year,” said Blair. “Brookhaven is a town with Mississippi State people, Ole Miss people, Southern people and LSU, and we just all have to exist together.”

Kick-off for the MSU-A&M game is scheduled for 11 a.m. and will air on ESPN.