Some might wonder how a player from Paramus, N.J., became interested in a school so far away.
"Rashan has always liked the Ole Miss football program," Rashan Gary's mother, Jennifer Gary, said. "He's been following Ole Miss since he got into high school. He's been interested in them for a while. Coach Chris Kiffin (OM defensive line coach) offered him a scholarship at the start of his junior season and things grew from there. Coach Kiffin spoke to me when he offered Rashan a scholarship and asked if I would have any apprehension of Rashan going far away from home to play football, and I said absolutely not."
That day started a relationship that's unique.
"Since that day that coach Kiffin and I had that talk we have grown very close as family to the Ole Miss staff. Rashan has a great relationship with the whole staff at Ole Miss. Coach Kiffin has recruited our family. They have all recruited us. Coach Bruce Johnson has done a wonderful job with us as well. We have gotten to know their coaches and their families. They have gotten to know us like no other staff,” she said. “The biggest thing with Ole Miss is that we have built a relationship with their coaches and their families that we have not built from anyone else. They have built a relationship with my son like no one else has. That's not to say that other staffs have not called and done a great job recruiting Rashan, but it's just different with the Ole Miss coaches. Rashan is a quiet and reserved person. He doesn't say a lot. He keeps it to himself. He's hard to get to know. Rashan is very guarded and doesn't let many in his circle, but he feels he can be himself with their coaches. He's open to them. He feels like he can trust those guys. Nobody else has the relationship with Rashan like Ole Miss. That's the best way I can put it."
The top defensive line prospect in the country made the trek to Oxford this summer. They wanted to come back to experience the game day atmosphere and get a better look at the campus and community so they made the trip back to Ole Miss this past weekend.
"Coach Freeze really impressed me. He's really down to earth. I was impressed I could talk to him about a lot of sensitive issues. He felt comfortable about talking about a variety of sensitive issues. We discussed a million different things that most people would not feel comfortable talking about,” she continued. “We really enjoyed just being around their coaches for the weekend. We spent a lot of time with coaches Freeze, Johnson, Kiffin, and Maurice Harris. I would feel very comfortable leaving my son with those guys. I know they will look after him and take care of him."
There was an unfortunate incident that occurred at the historical Walk of Champions in the Grove Saturday morning that got the day off to a bad start but the Garys learned a lot about the Ole Miss people and family because of this incident.
"Saturday we were in line for the walk of champions with the rest of the recruits and their families and me and Rashan got separated. I was next to Shea Patterson's mother. I was looking for Rashan and a security person pushed me back and said I couldn't enter the area that Rashan was in. He said I didn't have my tag on. I had gotten there late and didn't have my tag. I told the security person I just needed to let Rashan know where I was and he basically became very rude and humiliated me in front of everyone else. He told me that he was going to summon the sheriff and I just basically walked away. That started the whole day off bad, but I knew it had nothing to do with Ole Miss so I just had to get over my feelings getting hurt. After that incident it was a great experience. Fans from all over who saw what happened came over and comforted me. They had no idea who I was. I wasn't with Rashan so nobody knew who I was. Their fans didn't know me from Adam. They just wanted to make sure I was ok and told me how big of a jerk that security person was to me. I really appreciated that. Then the head of police came and found me within minutes of it happening and apologized to me and escorted me to Rashan. He was very apologetic for the actions of that security guard. The Ole Miss coaches found out and ran over to me as well. It just showed me a lot in how people reacted to it."
The trip to Ole Miss obviously had its ups and downs but Mrs. Gary sees it as a positive experience.
"Ole Miss has always been one of Rashan's top schools. That's why we came here in the first place, but I wasn't expecting it to be one of my top schools before we came on the trip. Yes, I have a unique relationship with their staff but it's in Mississippi. It's in the South. But after seeing what it's like in Mississippi, I like Mississippi. You’ve got to remember I'm not a southern girl. The culture is just so different, but I loved the people I met on the trip. I loved everything about it really. The staff, their families, the players on the team and their families, academic advisors and professors. I really enjoyed everything about it, but it's a different environment. Rashan seems to think he fits right in though. What is important to me is for him to feel comfortable. This isn't about me. It's about him. I was born and raised in New Jersey. It will take more than 48 hours for me to get acclimated to the South. It's so different. Things are a little quicker pace up here. If I didn't have to deal with what I dealt with I might have adjusted even faster, but I'm a northerner and it takes time to get use to how it is down in the South. But everything I saw I really enjoyed. Everyone is warm whether they are black or white. Everyone gets along really well and it's a very safe environment. Again, it will just take me longer than 48 hours to get adjusted to the lifestyle down South. Everyone is just so laid back down in the South and aren't in hurry with anything they do. Up here it's all about taking care of your business and getting things done in a hurry. It's hard to get use to but Rashan loves it so that's all that matters to me."
Jennifer was able to exchange ideas with another family that is from her area.
"I spent a lot of time with Austrian Robinson and his family. They are from New York, just down the road. They told me about Austrian's experience since he's been there. They all love it down there. They told me that you just have to get use to how slow everything is down there."
Where does Ole Miss now fit in the big picture?
"They are definitely still near his top. That's why he went there. He has serious interest in Ole Miss. Nothing that happened this weekend has changed his feelings towards Ole Miss. He loves it down there. Like I said, he has a unique relationship with their coaches and feels comfortable with them. I know he's grown close to a lot of their recruits too. He feels comfortable around those guys too. I'll be surprised if Ole Miss is not in it until the end."
What is next on the docket?
"Well, we've been to Ole Miss and Michigan now. We are going to Auburn this Friday. I really enjoyed my trip down there this summer. We are excited about getting back down there to see what their game day atmosphere is like too. We aren't taking any visits in December. It's his birthday in December. He is taking the ACT test in December, and we really need for him to concentrate on his books and studies in the month of December. In January we'll take a couple more trips. We are going to go to Southern Cal one weekend in January (15th) and maybe Clemson or Notre Dame. Those are pretty much the main schools in the picture right now.”
Yancy Porter is the recruiting analyst for the Ole Miss Spirit and he can be reached at email@example.com