Wes Rea turned his back on a promising football career to come to Mississippi State and try to win a national championship in baseball.
Now, with the Bulldogs two wins away from college baseball's top prize, it's an aim that must not be named.
“I don't even want to say those two words,'' Rea said with an almost nervous laugh. “We have two more ballgames to win. That's kind of the attitude this team has had all year long.
“It's not about putting a title on anything. It's about going out and winning this next ballgame, and we've been getting it done lately. The 'NC' words aren't even going to be said.''
Rea knows there's no hiding from the fact that two wins in the College World Series championship final over UCLA would give Mississippi State its first national title in any sport.
Then again, it's been a long time since Rea has been able to hide from anything. He stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 272 pounds. Even in his baseball uniform, it's difficult to forget that Rea was once a prized offensive line recruit sought by national powers such as Alabama and Louisiana State.
Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen still asks Rea about joining his team one of these seasons.
“I still talk to him a lot,” Rea said. “There's always a chance I could play if I wanted to, but I really wanted to focus on baseball.”
Bulldogs baseball coach John Cohen is glad Rea did. His massive first baseman has been a big reason the team reached Omaha for the first time since 2007. Rea has played an even bigger role in putting Mississippi State into the best-of-three championship series against the Bruins.
He doubled in the two runs that gave the Bulldogs a 5-4 win over Oregon State in the opening round. His two hits figured heavily into sixth- and eighth-inning rallies that produced a 5-4 win over Indiana.
Rea got another two hits, and was robbed of a third, in Friday's 4-1 win over Oregon State that finished off the Bulldogs' sweep of their CWS bracket. He's hitting .382 with three doubles, a homer and eight RBIs in Mississippi State's eight NCAA tournament games. All three of the doubles have come in Omaha, where Rea is hitting .462.
Overall, he is hitting .300 with seven homers and 40 RBIs with at least two games left in his sophomore season.
“He's been tremendous for us all year,'' Cohen said.
Cohen signed Rea to be a pitcher, but an arm injury in his senior season of high school altered those plans.
“He's a guy that could run out there and get you 88-92 (mph),'' Cohen said. “He had a great breaking ball.''