SAN ANTONIO- At the beginning of the season, a RivalsHigh national championship wasn't on the mind of Nickalos Brassell or his Batesville (Miss.) South Panola teammates.
"The only goal was to win a state championship," he said on the first day of festivities for next weekend's U.S. All-American Bowl. "It's what we work for every year. Then half way through the year we realized we had a chance to win a national championship."
The team, he said, jumped at the opportunity when it realized what could be.
"It made us work harder," he said. "No matter how good we were one day we wanted to get better."
For the school … and the state.
Brassell, the No. 7 ranked wide receiver in the country and No. 47 overall recruit, said he and his teammates wanted to show their state was as good as the traditional power states: Florida, Texas and California.
"People think just because we're from a small town in Mississippi we aren't as good," he said. "We can do anything they can do."
Brassell helped South Panola go 15-0 and capture the state's 6A title - as well as the RivalsHigh national title - with few difficulties along the way.
Brassell, however, said he's far from finished from having to prove himself. This week he'll go up against the best players in the country. And as one of only three Mississippi players in the game, he knows he'll be representing the state.
"I'm just going to show what I can do," he said.
Next up will be his college choice. Both Mississippi State and Ole Miss are high on his list. The state's passionate fans are hopeful he will choose one of the two.
In fact, this week will be sort of recruiting break for him from the state's unofficial recruiters.
When asked how often locals try to influence his decision, Brassell - the state's No. 1 ranked recruit - just shook his head.
"Every day," he said. "I hear about it every day. It's amazing."
Just like his high school team was all season.
Singleton could also stay in-state
Tobias Singleton plans to announce his college decision at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Saturday, but the Madison (Miss.) Madison Central wide receiver won't divulge his plans before then.
Not even a hint except that it's almost certainly between Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
Singelton, a 6-foot-2, 187-pound four-star prospect, has narrowed his list to Ole Miss, Mississippi State and UCLA but the Bruins have almost all but been eliminated after wide receivers coach Reggie Moore was fired.
He didn't count out UCLA but the Pac-10 school is slipping.
"(Moore) is no longer working there," Singleton said. "That's going to be kind of tough for them. They're slipping off but at the same time they're not because I met good people and it's a good environment. There's a lot of stuff to do."
It's almost assured this will be an in-state battle between Mississippi State, which defeated Michigan by 38 points in the Gator Bowl on Saturday, and Ole Miss, which struggled to a 4-8 finish.
But one season won't be a determinate for Singleton, who said he's pretty much made his decision but is waiting for this weekend to reveal it.
"Everybody is going to have their ups-and-downs," Singleton said of the Rebels. "Last year, Mississippi State wasn't that good. This year Ole Miss wasn't that good.
"At Mississippi State, they're hard-nosed down there. They have a lot of talent. I see why they're winning games. (Coach Dan Mullen) is a Florida-type guy. They throw the ball and I like that."
Rivals.com rates Singleton No. 12 at wide receiver, No. 128 nationally and third in the Mississippi state rankings behind Mississippi State commit Nickalos Brassell and Ole Miss commit Donte Moncrief.
- Rivals.com analyst Adam Gorney and the Rivals.com AMP team contributed to this report.