STARKVILLE – Cameron Gardner only got three games of action in last year as a true freshman at Mississippi State.
But when the Bulldogs opened the 2019 campaign, Gardner was lined up as a starter at wide receiver.
“It felt pretty good,” Gardner said. “Coach had been telling me through the week so I was just getting my mind right so when I went out there I just played and had fun.”
When Gardner got the head’s up that he would be starting against Louisiana, the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder quickly started trying to secure a ticket for his mother. As it turned out, his mom, dad, two uncles and a cousin all made the trek to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans to witness the special day.
Although Gardner did not record any statistics in the opener, he did haul in his first career catch for seven yards the following week against Southern Miss.
With his first start and first catch now out of the way, Gardner now has his sights set another first achievement.
“My No. 1 goal now is to score my first touchdown and I strongly believe that’s going to happen,” Gardner said.
As a whole, MSU’s wide receivers are off to a much better start through three games than they were a year ago. Gardner gives a lot of that credit to their new position coach Michael Johnson, who brings experience as an offensive coordinator in college and the NFL to their group.
“He brings a different type of energy into the room,” Gardner said. “Everyday he comes in there with juice and that just makes us get more energized. It’s great to have that person around that always lifts you up.”
Johnson’s sunny outlook and encouragement has permeated throughout the receiver room and given each of them a newfound confidence this year.
“We feel way better and more positive and energetic energy in the meeting room,” Gardner said. “We all like having fun with each other and are all coming together as a unit and as a family.”
Gardner is one of seven scholarship players on the Bulldogs’ roster that hails from the Golden Triangle and one of four hometown products from Starkville. Although Gardner is exploring his independence and maturing as a man, he admits there is a sense of comfort knowing his family is minutes away across town.
“I try not to go home all that much because I like to be by myself,” Gardner said. “But every now and then I’ll still go over there. It’s just nice to know that you’ve got family and friends close by if you need anything. It’s great to have my family around me.”