Mississippi State will take on Alabama on Saturday with heavy hearts, as they remember freshman defensive lineman Keith Joseph, Jr.
Joseph and his father tragically died in a car accident Nov. 6, which shook the entire Bulldog community. Now, though Joseph Jr. won’t be with the Bulldogs physically, Mississippi State is making sure his presence still fills up Davis Wade Stadium.
On SEC Nation on Saturday morning, the crew honored Joseph, Jr. with a commemorative piece and showed pictures of the stadium’s field, which will have “MJ” painted on it in large letters. Joseph Jr.’s teammates called him MJ. His best friend, Jamal Peters, will wear his No. 99 jersey against the Crimson Tide.
The Mississippi State football program remember their friend and teammate Keith Joseph Jr.
“I don’t know if there’s anything tougher for young guys to have to go through than the loss of a teammate and of a family member,” coach Dan Mullen told the SEC nation crew. “A football team is such a close unit. When you lose someone in that family, it’s just tragic.”
Mullen said he sensed that the freshman class took the news the hardest, as Joseph, Jr. was a redshirt freshman and spent most of his time in the dorms and in tutoring with that unit. Mullen credited his wife, Megan, for assisting in a major way to help his grieving team. On one occasion this week, several players slept over at Mullen’s house with about eight of them all crashing on a couch that also served as a bed.
“We had freshman at the house every night this week,” Mullen said. “I didn’t think they wanted to go back to the dorms, they didn’t want to go back to that kind of lonely place.”
Now, the Bulldogs will turn their attention toward the Crimson Tide. A service was held on campus Thursday for Joseph and his father, and the Bulldogs are hoping to honor the duo with their play Saturday. Several analysts have had Alabama on upset alert this week against quarterback Dak Prescott and this strong Mississippi State team.
Mullen said that with everything his team has been through, football has been the escape and the outlet they’ve all needed during a time of tragic loss.
“That’s their safe haven. Everyone knows that,” he said. “You’re a football player, your comfort area is on the football field.”