The first-year running backs coach came to Starkville after a three-year stint with the Green Bay Packers. During his time in Wisconsin, Drayton was responsible for offensive quality control while working with the special teams as well.
Although Drayton cherishes his time in the big leagues, he’s also thrilled to be back in the college ranks, especially when it comes to punching the old time card.
"In Green Bay, I've never experienced anything like that before," admitted Drayton. "From an hours standpoint, this (college coaching) is a lot better. And what I'm doing as far as growing as a coach, this is a lot better for me.
"But you love the game and I've paid some dues up at Green Bay. I've put in the 15 sometimes 17 hours a day. But if you're sitting there at midnight and call me up, you may get a conversation out of me concerning football."
While coaching some of the best athletes in the world, Drayton spoke on the difference of college players and the pros.
"From a physical standpoint, you have to be ready in the NFL," said Drayton. "Those are grown men. They know the angles, how to hit you and initiate on contact. It is a different physical demand."
On the other hand, Drayton noted that college players are student-athletes as well, with much more on their plates than just the gridiron.
"As far as the mental demands, heck, these kids at the college level are also worried about academics and the social life on campus," said Drayton. "When you are dealing with the NFL athletes, they are strictly football. Here (at State), you have a small window of time. And you have to get them focused on football only during that time. That is a demand, one that is very tough for those kids.
"They may be coming out of chemistry class or whatever and were focused on that exam. Now you are telling them to be focused on that linebacker that's blitzing your gap. That's the difference. But our kids have responded really well and that's the biggest difference I've seen."
Drayton enjoyed a solid playing career at Allegheny College located in Pennsylvania. Drayton finished his playing career as the school’s all-time leading rusher and scorer, helping guide Allegheny to the NCAA Division III national championship.
His coaching career has budded more success, which includes stops at Eastern Michigan, Pennsylvania, Villanova and Bowling Green. At Villanova, Drayton helped tutor current Philadelphia Eagles’ running back Brian Westbrook along with winning another national title in 1997, this time at the Division I-AA level.
Under Drayton’s guidance, Westbrook became the first player at any level to reach the 1,000-yard plateau rushing and receiving in the same year (1998).
Drayton admits the game hasn’t changed that much from a running back perspective since his playing days. But he did note how much emphasis is placed on his current pupils, especially in the passing game.
"It hasn't changed a whole lot," said Drayton. "The one thing I would say is I wasn't asked to catch the ball as much out of the backfield like we're asking these guys to do. And thank God, because I couldn't catch a cold most of the time.
"These guys are asked to do a lot more. We expect them to be a lot more versatile in this offense."
As usual, the fullback position is one of the most under appreciated spots on a football squad. But with State’s newly installed West Coast offense, Drayton spoke on the pressure placed on his starter in Darnell Jones.
"Darnell Jones is more than just a solid fullback," said Drayton. "He does a good job of catching the ball out of the backfield. The fullback is a critical position in this offense. You need a hard-nosed, blocking back but also one that can come out of the backfield, run routes and catch the ball. Darnell has really held that position and done what we've asked him to do."
Drayton also likes the experience at tailback with junior Jerious Norwood and senior Fred Reid. Drayton expects both to receive their fair share of touches during the 2004 campaign.
"I think we have some potential big-play makers in Jerious Norwood and Fred Reid," said Drayton. "Both of those guys had a great camp and both are explosive young men. Anytime they touch the football, you can expect good things to happen. And we are going to try to get the ball to them in a lot of different ways."
The incoming recruiting class featured just two running backs in Demarcus Johnson of College Park, Ga., and Brandon Thornton of Birmingham, Ala.
However, the class got even leaner when academics briefly halted Thornton’s arrival in August. As with any true freshman, earning playing time as a rookie is a tall task. Not to mention learning a very complicated offense.
"Demarcus is a guy we're still trying to fill out," said Drayton. "He's had a little bit of an issue with his hamstrings. But it takes a lot for a freshman to come in and play right away in this offense. It's a tough offense and not just from the physical demands we ask of them. The knowledge of the system also takes some time."
All in all, Drayton strongly believes in the new offense as well as his new coaching mates in Starkville. Regardless of the changes he’s endured the past decade, Drayton feels honored to be involved with Sylvester Croom’s initial staff in Starkville.
"I feel blessed to be here at Mississippi State and privileged to be with Coach Croom’s first staff," said Drayton. "We are all focused on turning this thing around and I feel good about our chances. We all want the same thing for our players and coaches. And that’s tasting success once again at Mississippi State."
Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.