The year (2012) before Defensive Back Mike Hilton came on the scene at Ole Miss, the Rebels were in the midst of the worst season in history - 2-10, with an anchor tied to it.
If it could have gotten worse, it would have. The season was only put out of its misery because there were only 12 games scheduled. Time saved them from even more embarrassment.
Then Hugh Freeze came on board and even though he had only a couple of months to piece together a decent signing day class, he cobblxed one together that has turned out to be the foundation for a lot of the success the Rebels have enjoyed in the last four seasons.
Certainly, the 2013 class garnered the most attention, deservedly so, but for a first offering, the 2012 class has contributed a great deal.
Imagine where the program would be without Hilton, QB Bo Wallace, WR Cody Core, LT Pierce Burton, TB Jaylen Walton, DT Issac Gross, OL Robert Conyers, C Ben Still, FS Trae Elston, DE Channing Ward and DE John Youngblood.
"I'm proud of what we have accomplished," noted Hilton, reflecting on Saturday against LSU being his last home game as a Rebel. "It was tough when we first got here, but this coaching staff believed in us and we believed in them. Our class took a leap of faith to come here, but it paid off. Ole Miss is now relevant. It wasn't when we got here.
"It wasn't just us, obviously. There are some great players younger than us and there were some great players older than us, like Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson and Keith Lewis, D.T. Shackelford and Serderius Bryant, and more, but we were Coach Freeze's first signing class and we take pride in that. It hasn't always worked out like we wanted it to, but I think we will leave the program in good shape, a lot better than when we came here."
Needless to say, Hilton is excited about the end of the season and facing a pair of rivals to wind down his regular season career and this regular season.
"The game against Arkansas was a downer. It hurt really bad, but we will have no problem getting ready for LSU and then State," he declared. "We still have a lot on the line. If we win out, we still have a chance, so it will not be hard to be motivated at all. The open week and the rest we got should renew our energy to close out the year the way we want to.
"Certainly, it's going to be tough. LSU has a lot of talent and the best running back in the country in Leonard Fournette. They came right at us last year and finally wore us down in the end, but they only scored 10 points and I think we have more depth than we did last year. Fournette is special though. He gets going downhill and he's trouble."
In 2014, the Rebels led the nation in scoring defense. This year, the Reb defense has been up and down, producing great games one week and bottoming out the next. Why?
"We have missed a lot of tackles this year and busted a lot of assignments. It's been the simple stuff that is correctable, but we don't seem to be able to keep it corrected. We get one thing fixed and then something else pops up or the previous issue doesn't stay fixed," Mike assessed. "The good thing is that we know what we are capable of doing and haven't lost our confidence. We feel we are going to rally and make something happen.
"Arkansas? Man, there's not much I can say. They had a good gameplan and made every play when they needed it. We broke down too many times and they were everywhere we weren't. It was just one of those games. Personally, big plays have been our issue this year and I don't mean just long plays, I mean plays the other team makes that keep drives going or third down conversions when we need to make a stop."
Hilton has bitter memories of last year's game with LSU, a 10-7 loss, but this year's game is not about revenge.
"Last year was last year. This year we have a lot on the line still and that's what we will be thinking about more than revenge," he noted. "My thoughts are that LSU is an outstanding team and we have to play a really good game to win and that is our intention."
Mike's last home game will be a memorable one for him, but no specific moment in his career sticks out.
"It's all about where we were to where we have come," he closed. "As a senior class, we are awfully proud of what we have accomplished and I hope the Ole Miss family is too. We turned this thing around a lot faster than anyone thought we could."
From zero to relevance. . . .