Team Player Epitomized

Most Rebels are looking for something to put their finger on as to why this 2012 football team has achieved more than expected to this point. Of course, there are a multitude of reasons, but senior LB Joel Kight epitomizes one of them.

Ole Miss senior Linebacker Joel Kight had spent three years establishing himself as one of the more dependable players on the Rebel football team.

He had the trust and confidence of the former coaching staff and it looked as if a starting spot was all but guaranteed to him had the former coaching staff remained.

When the coaching change took place, three years of proving himself was virtually erased. Joel would have to start from scratch with a new position coach - Tom Allen - and a new defensive system under Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack.

Kight never flinched, despite having a so-so spring training under the new staff.

"The first thing Coach (Hugh) Freeze told all of us is there is no entitlement," Kight noted. "We all knew right then that we'd have to earn every game snap we got. I understood that and respected it."

Kight kept his nose to the grindstone, working as hard as he could to carve out a role on the defense.

"I just did whatever the coaches wanted me to do and it didn't matter if I was playing one snap or 50 snaps," Kight continued. "I made up my mind to try to be a leader whether I was out there or on the bench. I became a better student of the game, watching more film and making sure when my number was called I knew what to do and where to be. Gradually, I gained more trust of the coaches.

"I also became more verbal and showed the coaches I want to play and that I can produce when called upon. If you need me, I can do it and I know my stuff."

Kight also took on the mantra of having everyone's back, so to speak.

"When I am out there, I know Mike Marry and the rest of the guys have my back. When they are out there and I'm not, I've got their backs," he noted. "I am looking for anything to give them an edge when they come off the field that I can tell them and they do the same for me.

Joel Kight
File Photo

"We're a team now and teams are tight and do those kinds of things for each other. We all want to play, of course, but this isn't about ego, it's about doing what's best for the team, trusting the coaches and trusting each other. There are some gameplans where I figure in a lot and others where I don't. I don't pout about that or anything, I just help any way I can regardless and that has been the attitude of the whole team."

Kight's role has gradually expanded. He got 31 snaps against Arkansas and is currently the 7th leading tackler on the team with 33, including a sack and three tackles for loss.

"Here's the deal - I'm going to keep working and being the best I can be. When I am called on, I am going to play as hard and as effectively as I humanly can," Joel added. "The rest of the time, I will be doing all I can to help my teammates and I will keep the same demeanor regardless of my role."

Joel is excited about the momentum and confidence the Rebels have gained and he saw it up close and personal against Arkansas last Saturday.

"We got down 10-0 early on and nobody blinked. We said to each other we were going to do what we had to do and get right back in the game," he said. "That's not something that would have happened last year. We would have hung our heads.

"We really believe in Coach Freeze and his program. We are seeing it work and it is giving us more and more confidence."

Kight said it's also easy to remain calm when your coaches remain calm.

"They believe in us, they believe in their scheme and they believe in the whole system, so they remain calm and focused," he explained. "That lets us know that if we just do what they tell us to do and cut out our mistakes, things will work out for the best.

"To me, to have that type of confidence in what you are doing and what you are being directed to do helps you play faster and make plays you might have thought you couldn't make. It's like a snowball going down a hill - it gets bigger and bigger with each roll."

Being from Georgia, Kight said this week's game against the Bulldogs has a special meaning to him.

"Sure you want to go home and beat those guys you grew up with," he laughed. "I can't wait. I have a lot of friends on that team."

Georgia presents a big challenge for the Rebels, but Kight said that's nothing new.

"They are physical and they are balanced on offense," Kight evaluated. "We have to have great fits and do our jobs. They expose mistakes as well as anyone.

"This will be all about preparation for us. We have to stay focused and attentive and do the right things at the right times."

Joel is anxious to get back to practice and start getting ready. He can't wait for every Saturday now.

"We look forward to the challenges now. We are having fun. Whether I am a big part of this gameplan or not, it doesn't matter," he ended. "I'll take no reps and a win over 60 reps and a loss every day of the week."

Joel Kight, team player, attitude leader.

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