He ducked from room to room in the Wynfrey Hotel, shook hands with well-wishers and made his best sales pitch. He wore the same smile, visited the same people and said some of the same things he had been muttering for years.
So when Nutt was asked the obvious question Thursday — what it felt like to be attending the event for the first time as Ole Miss' coach — the former Arkansas coach shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't feel like it's that big of a difference as strange as it may sound," Nutt said. "It feels good. It feels right."
Nutt may have lifelong ties to Arkansas, but the Little Rock native did his best to distance himself from the Razorbacks on Thursday.
Nutt, who spent 10 years on the sidelines at Arkansas, said his only concern is breathing life into a program that went 0-8 in SEC play in 2007 and has endured four straight losing seasons. It isn't rehashing the past at a program he left last December, resigning under pressure after a tumultuous tenure that included two SEC Western Division titles and eight bowl games.
"I was just really honored that Ole Miss wanted me," Nutt said Thursday. "It didn't take me but about 72 hours to decide. It didn't have anything to do with enemies or getting back (at Arkansas). I love coaching. I love being around 18-, 19-, 20-year olds. I wanted my family happy. So it was very simple.
"No grudges. Nobody is mad. (The SEC is) the greatest conference in America. To go back in the West, it excites me and it energized me."
Tackling the challenge without mention of Arkansas is impossible, though, considering Nutt moved six hours east to a program that plays in the same division. The teams will meet in Fayetteville on Oct. 25, a fact that hasn't been lost on anyone as preseason practice nears.
Even Nutt admitted he can't help but think about his return to Fayetteville and what it will be like on the visitor's sideline. But he quickly added that his primary concern is Ole Miss' season opener against Memphis on Aug. 30.
"Right now, there's a lot of football before we play (Arkansas)," Nutt said. "Memphis is the No. 1 team in your mind."
The philosophy has helped Nutt earn cult-like status in Oxford since his arrival. He was greeted by 1,500 fans who packed an auditorium to welcome him to campus last December and the expectations for 2008 have only grown since.
Nutt is the clear-cut, face of the program as evidence by Ole Miss' 2008 media guide.
The coach is pictured alone on the front wearing a red Ole Miss sweater. Inside, he is touted as a "proven winner."
"(Nutt is) unbelievable," left tackle Michael Oher said. "We work hard for him. We trust him."
Said defensive tackle Peria Jerry: "Everybody wants to be around him so much. He comes around and everybody wants to talk to him."
That was true in the Wynfrey Hotel, where Nutt — wearing a dark blue suit, red tie and Ole Miss pin — likely faced his last round of questions about his Arkansas departure until October.
He was asked about the venom many Razorbacks fans still express toward him and said he hasn't "tasted any of it." He said he stays in touch with former athletic director Frank Broyles, but the two rarely talk about Arkansas.
He also touched on the tumultuous end to his Arkansas tenure one last time.
"It was pretty awful," Nutt said. "That's why this is so good."
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