The 'Dog'

As I pulled on campus for my final season of two-a-days in 1992, the Mississippi heat was bearing down as always as I saw old faces and met new ones, not only players but coaches, too.

The previous year I had sprained my ankle in the Vanderbilt game, which ironically was one of the best starts of my career. I started 7 for 7 and we were playing well before the injury. The season did not finish positively, either. We went 5-6, lost to MSU in the last game of the season (the only time State beat us from 1989 to 92) and as a result we had assistant coaching changes.

We had a great staff as far as I was concerned, but what did I know? I was a 21-year-old kid and there was more to it than I ever imagined at that point. We had one bad season and BAM! - coaches went in different directions.

An animated Billy Brewer coaching the Rebels
UM athletics media relations

I have many fond memories of walking on the practice field, under the home side bleachers. No, we didn't have an IPF back then. The baseball field was still next to the Turner Center and we still practiced there after the fences and wooden bleachers were demolished in anticipation of the new baseball stadium. The new football press box on the home side was under construction. We walked under the home side stands, through the chain link fence gates and under the practice field goal post.

Every day the same ritual and every day there were the punters and kickers starting their day. Alongside them was a yellow lab named GB, and you could bet less than two steps away from GB was Coach Brewer. Usually with a hat, a whistle, and no shirt, and the most important thing: his stop watch.

You see kicking was and still is a timing issue. If you got rid of the ball or kicked it in less than a certain time - we are talking tenths of seconds - you didn't play and that is what Coach Brewer did for the first 30 minutes of practice every day. He timed the kickers. Or rather he and GB timed the kickers. After that, he was all business back and forth between the defensive to the offensive units until the final whistle sounded every day.

Coach Brewer lived and breathed Ole Miss football, and he imprinted that onto every player that stepped on that field during the week and especially on Saturdays. Billy Brewer lived and breathed Ole Miss because he knew Ole Miss not only from a coaches standpoint but as a player.

He was recruited as a quarterback for Johnny Vaught's teams in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but went on to become a safety, play on the 1959 and 1960 national championship teams, and was voted to the Team of the Century in 1993.

Russ Shows played quarterback under Coach Billy Brewer
UM athletics media relations

Anytime you saw or were around Coach Brewer you never felt uncomfortable, you were on his team, you were in his foxhole. You were a player of his that knew what it was like to put on the baby blue helmets and the red, white and blue jerseys with the grey pants with the red and blue stripes down the side. To this day I still feel the same way. I can see him anywhere and it is still just like we were coach and player.

Billy Brewer was the face of Ole Miss and he fully understood the rivalries with Mississippi State and LSU. These two teams, the Bulldogs and the Tigers, were two teams that we had to beat, and Coach Brewer let everyone know on the team there was no love lost between the Rebels and these foes. Once you've put on that uniform and been in the trenches in the games against those two teams, there is no problem transferring your emotion to your players because they can see and hear the excitement in your voice the whole week. They were by far the most important two games of the season. Brewer knew this, and we did, too.

I learned a lot of football the first years at Ole Miss and the last year of my career, too. Yet the Coach who had the greatest impact on me during my time in Oxford was Billy "DOG" Brewer, a players coach and a man who loves Ole Miss. You didn't have to play for him to know it, but playing for him was a great honor.

When Coach Brewer is inducted into the M-Club Hall of Fame Friday night, I will be only one among many who will be satisfied to see him so rightfully honored, and proud to have known the remarkable man and to have played for the legendary coach.

(Editor's Note: Billy Brewer was head coach of Ole Miss football for 11 seasons from 1983-93. During his senior season in 1992, quarterback Russ Shows led Ole Miss to a 9-3 record, including a Liberty Bowl win over Air Force. He and his wife, Shely, and their two children - son, Cashe, and daughter, Crawford - live in Oxford.)

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