Before Ridgeland head football coach Ryan Earnest lead the Titans program, he was the head coach at Collins. There, he won back-to-back 3A State Championships in 2014 and 2015.
One of the key players on the 2014 team was Mississippi State safety Mark McLaurin.
“He was actually one of the first kids I met at Collins,” Earnest said. “I remember the principal showing me around the school and here comes this kid that’s about 6’2, 185 pounds. I’m thinking to myself, if there’s a bunch of him walking around we’re going to be in real good shape.”
Today, the senior for the Bulldogs says he took away a lot more from his time at Collins under Earnest, than his former head coach realizes.
“I learned a lot from Coach (Ryan) Earnest,” McLaurin said. “He taught me first of all more aspects of the game, how to become a man and just how to take more responsibility in the things that I do. And keep continuing to go hard every day.”
McLaurin led the Bulldogs in tackles last season and was the SEC leader in interceptions with 6. Those six picks are a single-season school record.
He also took home the Taxslayer Bowl MVP after racking up a team-high 11 tackles and 3 interceptions.
“He was just one of those kids that was just a joy to coach,” said Earnest. “Never missed a day in the weight room, never missed a workout. I think the thing that impressed me most about him that always stands out about him is that he’s always one of the most consistent kids. He doesn’t make a ton of flashy plays, but he makes the right play over and over again. I think that’s been the key to his success.”
“He said man there’s nothing you can’t do because I see you every day, you work hard, you continue to do the little things right and you’re just a big time player. In big time games, you make big time plays,” said McLaurin.
And now in those big time games, Earnest says he’s able to sit back and watch his former player as a fan and like a proud father.
“We all want to win, we all want to win at the highest level, but when you have those kids that you’re able to maintain those types of relationships with over the course of their college career and even after, it makes you feel good to know that you had a lasting impact on their lives,” Earnest said.