There's no love, or grit, that compares to that of a Southern mother's.

By Meg Pace

Want to know what it takes to play in one of the toughest college football conferences in the country? Many of the Southeastern Conferences' top players say it takes having an even tougher mom.

"My mom taught me to be tough for sure," said University of Missouri-Columbia linebacker Cale Garrett. "And having that intrinsic drive that if you want something you have to work for it. It's not just going to happen. You can't just sit there and wish for it."

The Mizzou senior spoke about his mom's support during SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama, which took place in early July. Each year about a month before the start of the season, the conference's 14 head football coaches and their three top players gather to field hundreds of questions from sportscasters, writers, and reporters during a four-day media blitz.

Mississippi State University center Darryl Williams was with his mom the morning the Bulldogs rolled in for their time in the spotlight.

"This is about the closest thing to Hollywood," said Williams, as he faced a sea of cameras and lights.

Williams was decked in a sharp, maroon suit and matching tie, an ensemble put together by his mother, Satonya Parker.

"She picked out this suit for me," said Williams. "I love my mom. She worked her tail off to get where she's at and then she worked her tail off to get me where I'm at."

And Williams is in a good place. The senior is entering his third season as a starter for the Bulldogs and was named team captain for this year's squad.

University of Florida defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga said his mom also worked hard to position him for success, and she makes sure he continues to succeed. Zuniga's mom, Tammy Thompson, calls Gators' head coach Dan Mullen twice a month to check on Zuniga's grades.

"She's a mother. That's what they do," said Zuniga.

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Sportscaster Rachel Baribeau believes strong women are pivotal in shaping the SEC's top players for what is arguably the most competitive stage in the country.

"Really the moms, almost all the time, have paved the way and laid the foundation for these young men to be here. They're doing it for themselves for sure but they're definitely doing it for mama," said Baribeau. "You're never too old to be a ‘mama's boy.'"

University of Alabama star Tua Tagavailoa said his mom is his biggest supporter. The junior quarterback's entire family moved from Hawai'i to Alabaster, Ala., two years ago so they could be near Tagavailoa in Tuscaloosa. Tagavailoa said his dad motivates him in training but it's his mom's lessons that have shaped his devotion to his teammates.

"She's taught me a lot about the relationship aspect of football. With my mom, it's all about being able to pray, being able to love on others," said Tagavailoa. "You know, those things that moms would do."

Jake Fromm, quarterback for the University of Georgia, echoed that when we asked him what his mom has taught him about the game.

"It's love and serving others," said Fromm. "For me in a position of leadership, you can't be a leader without serving others."

Fromm, Tagavailoa, and SEC football players are often in the limelight but they seem to be in no danger of forgetting the strong women who got them there.

"Mom, I love you. You're my biggest inspiration. I can't wait to make you proud," said Williams.

We have a feeling she's already one proud mama.