Football may be king in the SEC, but other sports are in the spotlight when the conversation turns to picking the best athletes to don a Mississippi State uniform.
Baseball has a rich history in Starkville, and that’s reflected near the top of this list. A few basketball players made the list as well.
Here are SEC Country’s choices for the five best athletes to play in Starkville. Disagree? Tell us how you would rank the greatest Bulldogs athletes in the comments below.
1. Rafael Palmeiro
Born in Havana, Palmeiro played high school baseball in Miami and was drafted in the eighth round as a senior in high school. He decided to attend Mississippi State instead and proceeded to have a monster career.
In 1984, he became the only SEC player to win the Triple Crown, leading the conference in batting average (.415), home runs (29) and RBI (94).
He hit .372 and had 67 home runs during college. He was chosen 22nd overall by the Chicago Cubs in the 1985 MLB Draft.
During a 20-year major league career with the Cubs, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles, he had a lifetime batting average of .288, topped 3,000 hits and clubbed 569 home runs.
He is a member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame, and only his ties to performance-enhancing drugs have, to date, kept him out of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
2. Will Clark
The same time Palmeiro was doing his thing in Starkville, Clark was swinging a mean bat for the Bulldogs.
Clark hit .337 in a limited role as a freshman in 1983, but he was among the best players in the country during his next two seasons with the Bulldogs.
A New Orleans native, Clark hit .386 with 28 home runs and 93 RBI as a sophomore. He followed that with a .420 average, 25 homers and 77 RBI as a junior.
He won the Golden Spikes Award (college baseball’s best player) as a junior and was the second overall pick in the 1985 MLB Draft by the San Francisco Giants.
In his 15-year career with the Giants, Rangers, Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals, he had a .303 lifetime batting average and hit 284 home runs. He also was the National League MVP in 1989 and was a 6-time All-Star.
Clark won an Olympic silver medal in 1984 and is a member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame.
3. Dak Prescott
When his NFL career is through, Dak Prescott might be No. 1 on this list. For now, his obliteration of the Mississippi State football record book lands him squarely in the third spot.
This Louisiana native redshirted in his first year on campus in 2011 and served as the backup in 2012. He took over for an injured Tyler Russell early in his redshirt sophomore season in 2013 and never looked back.
He started the remainder of his career in Starkville, compiling 9,376 yards and 70 passing touchdowns while adding another 2,541 yards and 41 scores on the ground. He left with 38 school records and ranks in the top 5 in SEC history in total offense and touchdowns.
The Dallas Cowboys chose Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, and he was projected to be the team’s third-string quarterback. Fate, it seems, had other plans.
An injury to Kellen Moore elevated Prescott to the backup role, and a preseason back injury to Tony Romo thrust him into the starting lineup.
Prescott quickly impressed teammates and opponents with his poise and maturity. After a cautious start, he began putting up strong numbers. He finished with 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.
The Cowboys won the NFC East, and Prescott was named to the Pro Bowl. He also earned NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Prescott was named the team’s starter going forward (ahead of the now-healthy Romo) late in the 2016 season, and he’s expected to have the job when the season kicks off this fall.
4. Bailey Howell
Howell, a 6-foot-7 forward from Middleton, Tenn., played at Mississippi State for three seasons (1956-59), but he holds program records in career scoring average, free throws made, free throws attempted, career rebounds and other marks not likely to be threatened any time soon.
He averaged 27 points and 17 rebounds per game in his career in Starkville during an era without a 3-point arc or a shot clock.
Howell was the second overall pick in the 1959 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. He played 12 seasons in the league with the Pistons, Baltimore Bullets, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers.
He was named to six All-Star teams and won titles with the Celtics in 1969 and 1970. He averaged 18.7 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Howell was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997.
In 2009, his No. 52 became the first jersey to be retired at Mississippi State.
5. LaToya Thomas
Like Howell, Thomas’ name appears often in the Mississippi State record books.
This Greenville, Miss., native started all four years at forward for the Bulldogs. Thomas is the program’s all-time leader in several categories, including points, field goals made, field goals attempted, field-goal percentage, rebounds and blocked shots.
Thomas was an All-American in each of her four seasons with Mississippi State. She averaged 23.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game in her career. In 2003, she became the first player from the state to be the top pick in a professional draft when the Cleveland Rockers made her the first choice in the WNBA draft.
She played six seasons in the WNBA before going to Europe to play professionally in Spain, Israel and Turkey. Thomas retired in 2015.