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SMITH COLUMN: Consider the freedom we enjoy on Fourth of July

July 3, 2012

This is a special day for anyone who lives in the United States of America.

It's a great day for those who call the state of Mississippi home.

There's a sense of pride that comes with those who reside in the city of Starkville.

The Fourth of July is all about celebrating our nation's birthday and the freedom we enjoy.

Freedom allows us to go out to any of the athletic venues of Mississippi State University to witness Southeastern Conference competition at its finest.

Any given year MSU can produce some of the best athletes the SEC has to offer and that was especially the case this past year with Fletcher Cox in football, Arnett Moultrie in basketball and Chris Stratton in baseball.

Those three Bulldogs had outstanding seasons in their respective sports.

In a highly-documented note, Cox, Moultrie and Stratton gave MSU first-round picks in the NFL, NBA and MLB Drafts. It was the only school that could make that claim this year.

Moultrie was taken 27th by the NBA champion Miami Heat last Thursday, then was traded later in the evening to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Although it would have been nice to see Moultrie have a chance to play alongside LeBron James and company, being with the 76ers may give him more time on the court.

It was a great first and only year for Moultrie with the Bulldogs as he averaged 16.4 points per game and led the SEC in rebounding with 10.5 boards per outing.

Moultrie is the type of athlete that can have success at the next level and it will be interesting to see how he fits in at Philadelphia.

He will have some MSU company in the City of Brotherly Love. Not only was Cox taken by the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL Draft, but the Eagles already have former Bulldogs Jamar Chaney and Wade Bonner on their roster.

Cox was picked 12th overall by Philadelphia and signed a four-year deal in June. He will be competing for a starting spot on the defensive line when training camp opens later this month.

If Cox works as hard with the Eagles as he did with the Bulldogs, then expect him to make an impact early.

Maybe the first-rounder from MSU with the most on his resume heading to the next level is Stratton.

Stratton, selected 20th overall by the San Francisco Giants, was recognized as the first consensus All-American for MSU in baseball since 1985. He earned first-team All-American status with Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball, National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and Perfect Game.

Will Clark was the last Bulldog to reach consensus All-American status and ironically he got his start in the Major Leagues with the Giants.

Stratton, who compiled an 11-2 record and 127 strikeouts for MSU last season, is expected to begin his career soon with San Francisco's Northwest League affiliate in Salem, Ore. The SEC Pitcher of the Year had an earned run average of 2.38 as a junior with the Bulldogs.

It would have been nice to see Stratton, Moultrie and Cox all come back for their senior years at MSU, but no one can blame them for leaving. They all appear ready for the next challenge.

The opportunity to see Bulldogs like these come through Starkville is something that shouldn't be taken for granted.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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