Ladies Day

It had been another long day at the Ladies Football Forum. But for Chyna Ward-Poley, as usual, it had all been worth it.

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For 12 years Chyna has hosted the Ladies Football Forum at Ole Miss. For 12 years, the most recent offering last Saturday, the event has been nothing less than a rousing success.

"It's so hard to believe it's been 12 years," Chyna said, able to catch her breath for a few minutes as the panel gathered to discuss the life and legacy of the late Chucky Mullins was on stage.

Talking at that moment to those assembled were former Rebel player Jeff Carter, who was the second player to wear No. 38 after it was recognized as a significant number for Ole Miss football, Vanderbilt's Brad Gaines, former Ole Miss head coach Billy Brewer, former UM trainer Leroy Mullins, and Chucky's guardians, Carver and Karen Phillips.

The leader - Chyna - makes sure things go according to schedule
Dave Childers

Chyna said making sure to have a significant and interesting topic for the panel discussion is always one of the most difficult jobs in planning the forum.

"I was so blessed because of the panel of speakers," she said. "That is my first and foremost thing (to plan). I wanted to do a tribute to Chucky for a long time. I'm glad we did it today. This is great."

Carter, who lives in Tupelo and remains close to Ole Miss football and the Chucky Mullins legacy, said he was happy to help.

"Anytime you can be a part of something that represents your school in the way Chucky did and his stature, that's really a good thing," he said. "And these coaches have continued it through the years, so that's good."

Carter said its moments like Saturday that help keep the legacy of Chucky alive.

"It's good to be able to bring people back here who knew him to let people know what kind of guy he really was," he said. "It's not just an award. They're representing a special person."

Chyna has had a number of important Ole Miss-affiliated people involved as primary speakers. Deuce McAllister was the featured guest one year. Archie Manning was here one year. Another year Eli Manning took center stage. One year back in the early stages of the event, Olivia Manning talked about being a football wife and mom.

Among the coaches involved in a Q&A session were Dan Werner and Grant Heard
Dave Childers

There was even a special appearance by a legendary Rebel leader when Olivia showed up.

"Coach (John) Vaught was here with Olivia that day," Chyna said of the late all-time leader in victories for the Rebel football program. "I don't think he understood why women wanted to play football," she smiled and said.

Of course, most of these women want to only learn about football and enjoy a day where most others don't have access to visit. They run onto the field through the pregame "smoke" to start the day and have pictures made with the head coach – in this year's case, first-year head coach Hugh Freeze.

There are discussions in the weight room, the training room, and the locker room. Ole Miss coaches are always involved. Chyna credits the coaches through the years as being a vital part of the event.

"My coaches, there is no way I can thank them," she said. "The women actually love Xs and 0s. I think these coaches realize that and their little breakout sessions mean so much. They may not understand everything but they feel special".

The event draws from a wide area and always has, ever since the first one in 2001. Chyna ranks them according to classes, just like you would an incoming player. There are freshmen all the way up to graduates. At least eight of the women have attended all 12 years.

The ladies at the forum
Dave Childers

There have been opportunities to branch out and bring in people who aren't necessarily affiliated now or in the past with Ole Miss. Chyna has steered clear of that. She wants it to remain about the Rebels and football.

"I always want to keep it ‘Ole Miss.' That to me is important," Chyna said, already thinking ahead to year 13 of the event next summer. "I think that's what makes it special. All this just makes me so proud and humbled."

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