Over the weekend, College Football 24/7 explained why Mississippi State narrowly qualifying for a bowl appearance should be credited, as much as anyone, to Bulldogs senior safety Nickoe Whitley. Now comes the news that Whitley, a 2014 NFL Draft prospect, won't even get to play in the bowl game he did so much to make happen.
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Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen told the Head to Head radio show that Whitley has undergone knee surgery and will miss the Bulldogs' bowl game.
And he knew for most of the season that the season finale against Ole Miss would be his last college game.
"He had ACL surgery (Monday)," Mullen said. "About Week 3 of the season, the doctors came and said, 'Hey, he's going to have to have knee surgery.
"I met with Nickoe and said, 'Hey, you can have surgery now and hopefully be healed for the (NFL) combine, or you can suck it up and play with it the rest of the year. It's not going to get a lot worse. You'll still have to have the surgery afterward,'" Mullen said. "He said, 'I'm not giving up on the team, I'm going to play it out, and I'll (have surgery) after the last regular-season game."
Whitley led the Bulldogs with five interceptions on the season, one of which came against the rival Rebels. And with a bowl invitation at stake, he later stripped Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace on a would-be touchdown run to key a 17-10 MSU win.
"To make that commitment to the team, the sacrifice he made for the team, and then to make the plays he made, is unbelievable," Mullen said.
Whitley elected for surgery now rather than after MSU's bowl game, presumably to get a head start on his recovery in hopes of being more ready to perform for NFL scouts prior to the draft next May.
No doubt, there will be some questions about his health. But given the circumstances of his delayed surgery, there should be none about his toughness.