Mississippi State University Head Football Coach Dan Mullen voiced support for the Boys & Girls Club here Thursday night and encouraged over 200 people, including several youngsters, "to be the best you can be."

He was the guest speaker at the "Champions of Youth" event at the coliseum to benefit Neshoba County's Boys & Girls Club.

Mullen, who became the MSU Bulldogs' 32nd head coach on Dec. 10, 2008, spoke of his support for the Boys & Girls Club and how it helps children reach their full potential.

He told those gathered in the coliseum that children can reach their full potential and be a "champion" but it takes work.

"It's hard to get to the top of the mountain," he said. "But the view from the top is spectacular."

The bulk of his speech focused on a list of what he said it took to be a champion, starting with hard work.

He also cited a need for strong leaders.

Mullen recalled how even as a small child, he dreamed of being a football coach. But even then he knew it took more than just looking the part.

Sacrifice is also needed, along with being committed to the goal, he said.

"You also need to stop wishing and start wanting," he said.

Mullen said leaders were needed to steer children in the right direction.

"Leaders set standards," he said. "A good leader should never expect you to put in more work than they [the leader] have to."

He also spoke of accountability and trust and said it was important to set achievable goals.

"Being accountable builds trust in you and trust makes you accountable," he said.

Mullen later spoke of his work as a coach and the impact he's had in the lives of his players.

In just four full regular seasons, Mullen has revitalized and re-energized the Mississippi State fan base. Supporters have turned out in record numbers and capacity crowds to support the Bulldogs under his leadership.

The Bulldogs won eight games during the 2012 season for just the third time in the last 12 years. The Bulldogs have gone to a post-season bowl for the third straight year, just the second time in school history.

Mullen said that 75 percent of his players didn't believe they would ever go to college.

"It's why I coach," he said. "To make an impact on young people's lives. If you can make a difference in a person's life, you should do it."

He also thanked those who take time to help others, including mentoring to youth at the Boys & Girls Club.

"You need to encourage them to keep going. Who knows what they'll accomplish," he said.

He closed with a challenge to those in attendance.

"If you want to be successful, be the best you can be. You will receive successes upon successes."

Eric Prince, president of the Board of Directors of the Boys & Girls Club, was pleased with attendance, noting that he hopes the event will be held annually.

"I was very, very pleased with the turn out," he said. "This was our first one. We want to keep this tradition going."

Prince said Mullen's talk was very motivational for both adults and children.

"It was good for everybody but certainly for children," he said.

Prince thanked everyone who purchased tickets as well as they who helped make the event possible.

The event was held to raise money for the Boys & Girls Club at 239 Byrd Ave., which has an average daily attendance of about 60 students.

Officials said members' grade averages in school show improvements annually.

Statistics show that 90 percent of Boys & Girl Club alumni graduate from high school.

The mission of the club is: To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.

At the club, students do their homework, work on computers and are tutored in areas such as math and reading if needed.

A number of programs are included in the club activities including Passport to Manhood, S.M.A.R.T. Girls, abstinence and tobacco free, among others.

Prior to coming to MSU, Mullen served as offensive coordinator at the University of Florida.

He was also alongside Urban Meyer at Utah, where he was quarterback coach of the Utes during their undefeated 2004 season.