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Getting to Know Your Golden Eagles

Oct. 9, 2006

Throughout the 2006 Golden Eagle Football season, a player from the offense, defense, and special teams will sit down for an interview with Southern Miss Athletic Media Relations Graduate Assistant Mallory Haynes on what you need to know about Southern Miss Football.

This week will feature quarterback Stephen Reaves, wide receiver Rodney Gray, and linebacker Gerald McRath.

Stephen Reaves

What are your thoughts about the Tulsa game? "It was a tough game for us. I think that we played pretty tough in the first half and we missed out on some big opportunities to score and move the ball in the second half. We struggled offensively in the second half. I think we moved the ball pretty good but we need to work on converting some opportunities that can lead to big plays."

You had a career-best performance as a Golden Eagle. Does the loss downplay that good feeling that you should be having? "A loss will always downplay the way you play. Personally, I don't think that I played that well because we didn't put any points on the board in the second half. It felt good for me to get out there but I would like to end up with a win."

What was it like having to sit out all last season and watch your team play? "It was tough for me because I was just trying to get accustomed to everything after the transfer. After the knee injury I had, it was even tougher. It was hard having to sit out and not being able to play but it was all worth it."

Being a quarterback, how do you work to display yourself as a leader? "I just try to lead by example. I try to do things off the field and hopefully that comes out on the field. I also try to motivate everybody. I believe that a quarterback's major goal is to help everybody around them play the best they can. I guess that's what I'm trying to do."

Which stadium do you most like to play in besides The Rock? "I thought that Florida was the best so far. I didn't travel last year to Alabama or any other big stadiums but I think that Florida was the nicest stadium we've played in."

What is it about playing in The Rock that gets players so pumped up and ready to play? "I think it's the fans. They bring a great atmosphere there. Even though we don't seat that many, it's always really loud and disruptive for the other teams. Other teams even say that they don't like playing here. Our fans do a great job of yelling for us."

Being an athlete, do you feel pressured to behave or perform a certain way in other aspects of life like the classroom? "Definitely. Being a football player, especially for Coach Bower, you need to do everything right. He wants us to do everything right off the field, especially in the classroom and in the community. We try to do whatever we can for the community like signing autographs or something like that. We get out there and try to be good role models."

What is your favorite Southern Miss cheer? "To the Top"

Besides winning, what is most rewarding about being a college football player? "Just the chance to be a college football player is a wonderful opportunity. It's something that you've played your whole life and you get the chance to take it to the next level. I love football and unfortunately it has to end somewhere. College was another stepping stone and as long as I can play football, life is a lot easier and more fun for me."

Since your dad played college football, do you feel like you have to live up to his performances? "No, he's really supportive of what I do. He's always been there after games or practices trying to help keep me motivated. Sometimes he's more of a coach than a dad, trying to teach me things and I can learn a lot from him. I'm not trying to live up to his performances; I'm trying to play to the best of my abilities."

Rodney Gray

How do you feel about the Tulsa game? "Basically, we came out flat and lost the game. It's over now so we need to concentrate on Houston next week. We have to come out and show the fans what we're made after and how we can bounce back after a loss."

What do you think the team needs to work on? "We need to work on our team spirit right now. We need to get more pumped up and get more focused."

What do you need to improve about your game? "I have to improve everything about my game. As a player, you can always get better."

Being a young player on the team, which of your teammates do you look up to for leadership? "I look up to everybody because you can learn from everybody and the way they play the game."

If you could play any other position, which one would it be and why? "It would either be quarterback or runningback because you'll always have the ball in your hands. The quarterback has a chance to make a lot of plays."

Is there a particular team that you've been dying to play? "Every week is special to me because I love to play football. I look forward to playing every team."

Which superpower would you like to have? "I have a fear of failure so I would like to be able to see the future."

Why did you decide to attend Southern Miss? "This team will play anyone, anywhere, anytime. I love that about this team."

If you could choose any professional athlete as your mentor, who would it be and why? "It would be Jerry Rice because he came from a small town and he's one of the best receivers ever."

Gerald McRath

Give us your thoughts about the Tulsa game? "Obviously, it's disappointing because we have high expectations for the team. I think that we could have done a lot better in the game. There was a lack of big plays and we missed those little assignments that we need to get."

You finished the game with a career-high 10 tackles. How do you feel about that accomplishment? "To be honest, I didn't know how many tackles I had. I'm disappointed because I feel like I could've made more tackles and done some more things to help us out. To me, the ten tackles don't even matter because we didn't get the win. There is always room for improvement."

The coaches have said that you have excellent instincts. Where does that come from? "It's fundamentals; it comes to me really easy and it has since I was five years old. I've played almost every position, including quarterback, so I know where another position is supposed to be at a certain time. It has to do with good coaches and me wanting to learn more. I love this game and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't talk about football."

How do you plan on providing leadership to the defense this season? "The biggest thing to do when you're coming off of a loss is to have a little regrouping time. As a leader, you have to go back and see if there's anything that you can do differently. You also have to be aware of the way you lead your teammates. You can't get down on anybody; you have to find forms of positive to get things back on the right track."

What is it like having C.J. Barrows, a high school teammate, on the same team in college? "It's funny. Today, when I parked my car, I parked it right next to C.J.'s. It feels like high school. It's good to have somebody to relate to. It's an awesome feeling. A lot of people don't know that we went to high school together."

What was it like going through your leg injury last year? "When I was coming off of that leg injury, it was a turning point in my life. I had shoulder surgery first. Then, I got set back another year with the leg injury. It was definitely gut-check time. It all goes back to how much I love the game. I can't see myself not playing. I was going to do everything I could to get out here and play again but it was hard. You may start out equal to everybody but when you get injured, everyone else gets better while you're recovering. I had to work back to where everybody else was. The biggest thing is staying positive."

What is the difference in playing middle-linebacker and strong-side linebacker? "It's a big difference. I see that more going into a quick transition. One minute I could be covering a wide receiver and the next minute I could be standing in the back in the A-gap or something like that. Being able to do that quickly takes a little time to adjust to. During the game, I messed up on some key plays. That's another reason why I'm disappointed. It's a little bit of a struggle but it's not too bad."

Which of those two positions do you feel you perform at your best? "To be honest, I feel like I can play any position, technique-wise. As far as performing to the best of my ability, I like outside. I like having the chance to run and make plays."

What was it like to attend the NCAA Leadership Conference? "It was the most awesome thing I've ever done. It was terrific. I met some guys from Tulsa but I didn't get to talk to them at the game. I met people all over the NCAA; even places that I didn't know existed. It was great to meet a new network of people and getting new ideas to bring back here to Southern Miss."

You still have several years of eligibility left. What kind of expectations do you have for yourself for the remainder of your career at Southern Miss? "The biggest thing is winning a conference championship. The key to doing that is to get better every day. We have a lot of young talented guys. I hope that I can mentor younger guys the way I was mentored by Boley (Michael Boley) and Cash (Antoine Cash). I hope that I can learn more as I go on."

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