Nobody believed that the Golden Eagles had a chance in the sea of red aside from a few loyal USM fans (that would give USM the edge even if they were going against the Green Bay Packers) and the handful of redshirts that were sitting in Bond Hall.
The redshirts in the dorm were watching the game when the Eagles struck first with a play-action pass that went for a touchdown in the first quarter. The players in the dorm went crazy. They were running up and down the stairs screaming to the top of their lungs and acting like animals.
The Eagles eventually won the game against the legendary Huskers and, as soon as the game was over, the redshirted freshman got in his car, along with his other teammates, and went to the Hattiesburg airport to greet and congratulate his teammates.
This is the fondest memory of one of the best players to ever come through Southern Mississippi, Gerald McRath.
Gerald came in as three star linebacker out of Powder Springs, GA. He left as one of the best linebackers in Southern Miss history.
“I don’t think that I left anything that the guys before me hadn’t already left. They all came in to this job every day, they all worked hard, and they all played with a chip on their shoulder just like me” said McRath “I think if I did anything, it was just keep the tradition going.”
Gerald has become one of the most loved players on the Southern Miss team, by fans and teammates alike. Gerald admits that the love is mutual.
“I’ll will miss my teammates, I will miss the family aspect of it, I will miss being on campus because this is just my home. This is home. You meet so many great people here at this school.”
To someone that has had so many great accomplishments at this University, it comes as a surprise that his proudest accomplishment comes off of the football field.
“My best accomplishment here was graduating. My mom and my dad really harped on me about coming to school to get my education and for me to get my degree.
To start something and see it all the way through was big for me and my family.”
McRath has left a big void in the defense that the Eagles will have a tough time filling, but Gerald is optimistic and he believes this team will be fine.
“I think this team is going to be great. Every time this team takes the field they have the mindset that they are going to win and with that attitude anything is possible. I believe that everybody on that team is going to step up and rise to the occasion.”
Gerald had an extremely tough decision going in to the off season, but he decided on declaring for the NFL draft. Gerald admits that it was a tough decision, but he feels that his decision was the right one for everybody.
“I had to sit over it a think for a long time, it was tough. The biggest thing on my decision was looking out for the best interest of my teammates. I didn’t want to come back and have any what ifs. That wouldn’t have been fair to my teammates.”
Most guys get lost in the limelight after they declare for the draft and get a small amount of fame and notoriety. McRath is making sure that he stays humble throughout his career.
“You have to stay humble; you can’t pick up the newspaper. At every moment there is somebody out there that is trying to outwork you.”
Gerald participated in the NFL combine a few weeks ago and he admits that it was a pretty neat experience.
“It was nice; it was the experience of a lifetime. You just have to be there to know the feeling. It is mind-boggling when you get there because there are so many details that you have to look at and then you have to take that test; It is the ultimate job interview.”
McRath is looking forward to the upcoming draft, but he is clueless to when and where he is going to go.
“I’m just so anxious to see what is going to happen because I honestly don’t have a clue. I have heard everything from the second round to being a late rounder. It doesn’t matter what round I get drafted in because wherever I go I will go there to work.”
McRath comes into the draft as the third ranked MLB in the draft by Scout.com, behind Rey Maualuga and James Laurinaitis. McRath has tremendous respect for those two guys, but at the same time, uses them for motivation.
“Guys like that ultimately make you better. Guys like that work so hard and those guys perform very well and that is great competition and great motivation at the end of the day.”
McRath has no teams in particular that he would prefer to play for in the NFL.
He just wants to go out there and enjoy the game that he has played all of his life.
“I just want to play the game of football. I just want to be involved with it no matter where I go. I will be happy to go anywhere and contribute.”
We USM fans have watched McRath grow as a player and a person for the past six years. Gerald has found a place in Southern Miss notoriety, and has also found a place in the hearts and memories of USM fans.
His positive attitude and great work ethic is only equaled by the tenacity that he plays with on the football field. He has given this school everything he has to give and we as USM fans wish him the absolute best in his journey through the NFL.
“You can do whatever you want to do, never settle for less. Keep pushing forward and create your own testimony. Don’t change your dreams because people tell you it is unlikely.” -Gerald McRath