Starry, Starry Night

Sam Kendricks was a double winner at the Rebels Choice Awards Monday night at the Ford Center. He was, as usual, all smiles.

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"Ole Miss track and field is a huge sport," said the world class pole vaulter, a NCAA Champion last season and one of the world's best in the sport this season. "We're one of the biggest sports on campus, when you count men's and women's cross country, and men's and women's indoor track and field and outdoor track and field. That's six different sports."

No wonder they were, again, arguably the most vocal group at the awards ceremony, now in its fourth year. They always are.

"We make a lot of noise because we love each other," Kendricks said. "I believe that's plainly evident based on the noise you hear from us at the Rebels Choice Awards."

Kendricks won the overall Most Valuable Rebel male award Monday night, while his men's track and field and cross country team won Team of the Year.

Eligible players, teams, coaches, and moments are for the past calendar year, dating back to the event at this time last spring.

"We all work hard individually, but we all know everybody's backing each other up," Kendricks said of the track program. "This is a great night. It's fun and they do a great job with it."

Soccer's Rafaella Souza was named Most Valuable Rebel on the women's side. Soccer was also named women's Team of the Year.

Kendricks' head coach, Brian O'Neal, was a finalist for Male Coach of the Year. The honor went to head football coach Hugh Freeze. Women's Coach of the Year was soccer's Matt Mott.

As the entire men's track and field and cross country team made its way to the stage to accept the Men's Team of the Year award, O'Neal, himself a product of Ole Miss track as a former student-athlete, said the program stands for four basic principles.

"Believe in God. Believe in yourself. Believe in your coaches. Believe in your training," he said.

O'Neal and staff, along with Kendricks and teammates, will host another track meet this weekend at Ole Miss. They want fans to come watch the action as they also take in other events on Grove Bowl Saturday.

The Ole Miss Student-Athlete Advisory Committee selected 16 award winners for Monday night, while three were selected by fan voting.

Fans picked men's basketball's Marshall Henderson as their Favorite Player the past year. Jeff Scott's game-winning touchdown run late against Vanderbilt was chosen Play of the Year. They chose the football team's win over LSU as the Game of the Year.

Coach Hugh Freeze
Bruce Newman

Andrew Ritter, who made the game-winning field goal against LSU, was chosen as the men's Scholar Athlete of the Year. Caroline Rohde-Moe of women's tennis was also named Scholar Athlete of the Year.

Football won a total of seven awards, also capturing men's Rookie of the Year in Laquon Treadwell, and the men's Hotty Toddy award won by Deterrian Shackelford.

The women's Hotty Toddy award went to Skylar Johnson of volleyball, while Asia Cooper of track and field was named women's Rookie of the Year.

The Bennie Abram Award was given for the first time this year to a walk-on student-athlete in memory of former Ole Miss football walk-on Bennie Abram. Jordan Holder of football took home the men's award, while Rachael McLamore of volleyball won the women's award.

Community Outreach Award winners were Rachael McLamore of volleyball and Scott Weathersby of baseball.

There was a moment of recognition for two members of the athletics community who are leaving. Veteran championship coach Billy Chadwick of men's tennis is retiring, while former football player now administrator, Dr. Jamil Northcutt, is leaving to join the Cleveland Browns organization. Northcutt is credited with starting Rebels Choice Awards four years ago.

First-year attendees, like women's head basketball coach Matt Insell, were impressed.

"It's unbelievable. Sometimes we all get caught up in our own sport and aren't aware of what all is going on," Insell said. "What a great night for Ole Miss athletics and what a great night to be a part of."

Insell said he is looking forward to the day, hopefully soon, his team will be honored among the best on campus.

"I was sitting in there and I told my assistants ‘We need to be Team of the Year and it needs to be sooner rather than later.' I'm going to talk to the team about that," Insell said. "We need to be winning some awards in here next year. We've got to work hard to do that."

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