STARKVILLE — Tolando Cleveland's career was cruising right along, playing in 38 straight games since his true freshman year at Mississippi State.
However, the time away from the game helped put things in perspective for Cleveland and taught him to cherish every moment of being healthy.
"There's just certain things that you kind of take for granted, even things like practice, treatment and workouts," Cleveland said. "Then when something bad happens like an injury, you don't take things like that for granted anymore. Every chance you get, every opportunity you make the most of it."
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The 6-foot, 194-pounder has returned to the secondary this season and started both games at cornerback. He has made a dozen starts in his career while racking up 83 tackles, seven for loss, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 11 pass break-ups.
As a team captain and one of the Bulldogs' most experienced players, Cleveland is constantly passing along his knowledge and providing leadership to his teammates.
"You know the mindset you have to have and what to tell guys," Cleveland said. "Even in the last game when (Louisiana Tech) got out to a little lead on us, we had to remain positive, true to who we are and trust our identity. Having that experience under my belt, I'm able to relate that to the guys and keep their minds where they need to be."
Cleveland has seen a complete change in his defense this year under new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. MSU is currently rated the Southeastern Conference's top pass defense and third overall defense.
"We like to motto ourselves as being fast, physical and aggressive," Cleveland said. "I think that's what we've been doing these past two games. We've got to keep our foot on the pedal and make progress so we can keep that identity of being fast, physical and aggressive."
Now with a second shot at his senior year, Cleveland is trying to take full advantage of his opportunity.
"I just want to make the most out of this year and help this team win games and end on the right note," Cleveland said.
The native of Powder Springs, Georgia is set to graduate in December with a degree in political science and has aspirations of becoming a criminal defense attorney someday.
This article is written by Logan Lowery from Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.