Marcus Dupree

Football great Marcus Dupree visited DeSoto County on Tuesday as part of his work with Families First for Mississippi. Dupree visited the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi and the DeSoto County Adult Detention Center, where Families First is assisting in the state’s first program to help inmates achieve a high school diploma.

Marcus Dupree was the subject of an award-winning book by the late Mississippi author Willie Morris, "The Courting of Marcus Dupree" which chronicled recruiting one of the top high school football players in the nation.

The highly sought-after Dupree, a Philadelphia, Miss. native, has also been the subject of a documentary by ESPN 30 For 30 which described the ups and downs of Dupree's college and professional football career.

Dupree was in DeSoto County most recently promoting his involvement with the "Families First" organization which seeks to strengthen the bonds between young people and families.

In a conversation with local civic and community leaders at the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi headquarters in Hernando, Dupree outlined his aspirations and hopes for his involvement with Families First.

"I want to make a change for the State of Mississippi, and I want to give awareness for what Families First is all about," Dupree said.

Dupree, who would go on to play football for Coach Barry Switzer's University of Oklahoma football team and the University of Southern Mississippi's Golden Eagles, had a brief NFL career after a storied rise.

Failure and success are relative terms for Dupree, who said one is successful if he or she lifts another up and helps them to be successful.

"Families First is a way to connect the dots," Dupree said. "Families can take classes, I say really they can attend seminars, in which they come to understand about parenting, bullying, opioids, teen pregnancy and preparing people for jobs. I say that we try to teach from the womb to the tomb and all in between. Until we try to change the mindset of parents and children in Mississippi, it's just not going to change."

Dupree said he is an ambassador for his native state almost everywhere he goes.

"I travel all over the country and I get recognized, especially since they are airing that ESPN 30 for 30 as they have for the past seven years," Dupree said. "They say, 'You are from Mississippi. Y'all are the fattest state, last in economics, last in education.' I get tired of hearing that. I want to change that. I want to make a change the best way I can."

Dupree's own foundation, The Marcus Dupree Foundation, seeks to help children with disabilities transition to better-paying jobs. Dupree's foundation is in initial talks with the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi.

"The Community Foundation helps grow endowments for nonprofit organizations to create sustainability," said Theresa Erickson, Development Director for the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi.

According to Erickson, endowed donations contribute to a better quality of life for the community.

Likewise, Dupree wants to give back to his native Mississippi.

"I love the State of Mississippi," Dupree said. "I spoke on the Senate floor and said that we don't have enough money for education. You have to have the highest and brightest to come out of Mississippi."

Dupree also wants to shine the light on the state's stellar athletes.

"We have a blues trail, a civil rights trail — why don't we have an Athletes' Trail?" Dupree asked, adding it would spawn tourism and recognize athletes from Mississippi who are from all walks of life.

"I'm just an old country boy from Philadelphia, Mississippi," Dupree said. "If it's something I can do to open up the doors of opportunity for Mississippians, then I want to do that."

Dupree is philosophic about his NFL career that burned out after a brief tantalizing career. Dupree has turned his fame into a fledgling movie career of sorts.

"I just finished movie that was shot down on the Coast, 'The Cornbread Cosa Nostra,' about the killings in Biloxi," he said, referring to the Sherry killings involving a prominent attorney and his wife.

Still, Dupree is repeatedly asked about his NFL career.

"It was a great ride but at the end of the day God had a different path for me," Dupree said. "I just try to follow that path. My mom was a school teacher and my grandfather was a preacher. It's all in God's time. I just try to wait it out."

Sports Editor Bob Bakken contributed to this story.

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