Stephens explains winning philosophy to the Rotary Club

East Mississippi Community College football coach Buddy Stephens speaks to the Starkville Rotary Club on Monday. Stephens discussed recruiting, his career leading up to his time at EMCC and many other football-related topics (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)

Buddy Stephens is the very successful head football coach of East Mississippi Community College, but he made sure the Starkville Rotary Club understood on Monday that he is not alone.

Even though he has a 98-13 record in the last 10 years and four national championships in seven seasons, Stephens said the things the Lions have accomplished over the years are not about him.

"Believe me all of those accolades would not have come without other people," Stephens said. "Believe me, it's not me. I don't do this. Somebody asked us, how did we get here? We got here because of a lot of really good football players. We can coach, you can x and o and draw up stuff all you want to, but if you don't have the players, you can forget it and it doesn't matter."

One of the strengths for Stephens and his staff is recruiting.

Stephens has built a national championship culture at EMCC because of the ability to find the right players and get them to Scooba.

Whether it's Starkville, West Point or Columbus in the Golden Triangle, or other areas in the state, Stephens tries to stay plugged into as many high schools as he can.

"Our roster is made up of 55 players and 47 of them have to be from the state of Mississippi," Stephens said. "We'll go to every school in the state of Mississippi to look for players every year.

"We identify those players we want. We do a good job of recruiting. In recruiting, one of the things we do is learn how to read people."

Two of the prize recruits for the Lions in the 2018 recruiting class are wide receivers with Jason Brownlee of West Point and Austin Morphis of Pontotoc.

"(Brownlee) is a very good football player that will probably only be here one year," Stephens said. "(Morphis) is a Division I wide receiver from Pontotoc that is going to be phenomenal. He's a big kid and a qualifier."

Stephens said EMCC is not for everyone, but can be an avenue for football players who want "to better themselves and get a better life."

Just because a player comes to Scooba for junior college doesn't mean they have problems or struggle in academics.

"They just need guidance and just need another chance to show what they've got," Stephens said. "I've got kids with 30 on the ACT. This is not a last chance for them. It's just having discipline to get there every single day."

Stephens instructs the Lions to make choices that will allow them to reach their vision.

That's how EMCC has won multiple national championships during Stephens' tenure.

Don't look for that run for Stephens to end any time soon. He still has the drive and desire to keep the Lions on top.

"We're not going to be complacent," Stephens said. "We're going to continue being who we are. We're going to wake up every morning and try to be the best at what we do. There's no way to do what we do and not wake up in the morning wanting to be the best."