Five years ago last Monday, Mississippi State fans, coaches and players dealt with a tragic loss when defensive end Nick Bell died from cancer.
At last Monday's press conference, Dan Mullen spoke on that tragic event and mentioned that it was the hardest thing he's ever encountered as a coach. He also said that it was something he hoped he never faced again.
Just four days later, he faced it again.
Mullen was at Starkville High School watching several recruits on Friday night when he suddenly got a call from former quarterback and head coach Rockey Felker, who is currently the director of player personnel.
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Felker broke the news to Mullen that freshman defensive end Keith Joseph Jr. and his father Keith Sr. had died in a car crash.
"I certainly hoped that I never had to go through something like that again," Mullen said on Monday. "Losing a family member as a part of your program, nothing more devastating is going to happen to you as a coach, a football team or a program."
MSU recognized the loss of Joseph with a "MJ" emblem taped on the podium at Mullen's press conference. Keith Joseph Jr. was known to his teammates to his teammates at MSU, Pascagoula and Gautier as "M.J."
The loss of the younger Joseph hit home for the entire football team, but especially his fellow freshmen. Mullen mentioned that on Friday freshmen safeties Jamal Peters and Mark McLaurin dropped the defensive end off with his father in Meridian.
"Keith was a great young man. He gave unbelievable effort in everything that he did," Mullen said. "(He was) a 4.0 student here at State. He would have been our scout-team player of the week every week. We had to share the award with other people because it wouldn't have been fair."
Quarterback Dak Prescott saw some of the same characteristics in Joseph that his coach did. As the leader of the team, he feels like it's up to him and the rest of the upperclassmen to pick the younger players up in the tragic time.
"It's sad. You've got to be there for somebody, be a brother," Prescott said. It's something that I don't think any of us have been through. I guess losing family members you can relate to it in some way, but losing a teammate - he was such a good guy that worked hard and made me better every day - so young, it hurts."
As much as it hurts the players and coaches with the loss of one of their own, the team now has to prepare to go to battle against one of the nation's best in No. 4 Alabama. The Crimson Tide (8-1, 5-1) is coming off a dominant 30-16 win against LSU and playing its best football.
A year ago, MSU was afforded a huge opportunity to punch their ticket to the SEC Championship with a No. 1 ranking and a 9-0 record heading to Tuscaloosa. After falling behind 19-0, the Bulldogs had to fight back and close the gap before falling short, 25-20.
Prescott believes more execution is key to this season's matchup.
"It's a big game. They're a good team," Prescott said. "They're a solid team. I know that Davis Wade is going to be a great atmosphere and we're excited about it."
Before the Bulldogs take the field in Starkville on Saturday, they'll honor both of the Joseph's at a memorial service at Humphrey Coliseum at 12:30 p.m. Thursday. The service is open to the public.
MSU also plans to wear the "MJ" helmet decal in the ball game against the Crimson Tide.