They get to catch up with childhood friends and eat home cooked meals, among other things. You would think pigging out over mom’s delicious recipes would be a priority for a 340-pound offensive lineman like Justin Bell, but it wasn’t.
“I actually didn’t,” Bell said, when asked if he ate a lot during a two-week vacation. “I kind of watched what I ate and just took care of my body.”
Instead of taking a break from a grueling football season paced by a strict regimen, Bell watched his diet and even got a few workouts in. When he reported back to Ole Miss football practice on Monday, the senior right guard says he was in better shape than he thought.
“I felt pretty good getting back out there on the field,” Bell said. “We got a little conditioning in after practice. A lot of players look good.”
This is a good sign for an Ole Miss football team that suffered an embarrassing 42-3 loss to TCU in the 2014 Peach Bowl. Many wondered if lenient preparation and too much focus on postseason pageantry resulted in the embarrassing loss.
Bell says while most players were prepared, the team as a whole was distracted. To combat the deflated performance from last season, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze changed up the Rebels’ preparation for January’s Sugar Bowl matchup against Oklahoma St.
“We are going to practice at the same time at the same place,” Freeze said. “I lengthened the time that we will be here before we break for Christmas. When we get there, we are attacking it differently.”
Freeze also had a message for his team when they returned to practice on Monday, one that Bell says will help the Rebels stay motivated throughout the bowl season.
“(He said) stay focused and don’t let the outside stuff distract us,” Bell said. “Basically just getting rid of our egos as players because we still have to finish.”
Bell understands how big finishing is not only for the program but for its loyal fans.
“A win would mean a lot more to everybody, especially our older fans,” Bell said. “The Sugar Bowl used to be the talk of the town back in the day. So I feel like as a whole, as a history and for the university today it would be a tremendous deal for us to come out with a victory.”
While Bell may not be starving for a home cooked meal he and the Rebels are definitely hungry. Hungry to rid their mouths of what Bell calls “a bitter taste.”
“We really didn’t have that hunger and that bitter taste in our mouth going into last bowl season as we do this season,” Bell said. “We can’t end this season like we did last season.”