Fifth-year senior Center Robert Conyers has, as the old saying goes, been there and done that when it comes to his college football career.
The self-appointed "old man" of the Ole Miss offensive line has seen the highs and the lows and everything in between, from injury to elation, from tearful defeat to joyous victory, from position changes to being called on to learn a new position, from being a redshirting freshman on the scout team to a valuable backup to a starter to, this year, a stalwart.
So it comes as no surprise that the next logical step for the 6-5, 300-pounder, who is coming off knee surgery last spring (not his first time under the knife during his career), is to be the leader of the pack, the guy in the offensive line meeting room who draws the most attention when he speaks, the guy leading the way with actions and words.
"I take leadership seriously. Leadership takes on a lot of forms. There's leading by your actions and leading with your words. There's leading with encouragement and leading with being a little demanding at times," he explained, "but the main thing is that I have to be the guy that gets the guys lined up, get the tempo going, get them confident and show them a little streak of being tough and nasty. I know those guys listen to me and I've got a big role, but I am ready for it."
Conyers likes the guys around him and even the depth of the OL, for the most part.
"We could use one or two more guys to jump their games to the next level, but for the most part, we've got enough depth and we've got enough talent," Conyers noted. "I like this group. Besides me, they are young, but they are tough kids who want to do well. Football is important to them and they are close-knit. We like each other."
The question mark coming into August practice was left tackle, which it looks like has been taken over, for now, by Rod Taylor.
"He's coming along every day. He's really, really athletic and now he's learning how to play with his hands and he's putting his eyes in the right place now," Conyers allowed. "Rod is so athletic that he can overcome a minor mistake while he is still learning tackle skills. We like him out there. It starts between your ears and he's getting that down, but like I said, he has a leg up on everyone because he is so athletic. He is just as athletic as Laremy Tunsil."
Conyers said the can see the mental side of the game clicking more and more for the younger guys as the days tick by.
"All of them - Jordan Sims, Javon (Patterson), Sean Rawlings, Greg (Little) - they are out there making calls like they are fifth-year seniors," he noted. "I think a lot of that has to do with their willingness to take coaching and willingness to listen to older guys like me. We all genuinely like each other. We hang out together, we work out together, we eat together - it's all good. I feel more confident with those guys being ready to go."
Conyers has a lot of respect for the Florida State defensive line, but he says, having "lived" in the SEC for four years, it's nothing new to him.
"They are big, strong and fast - like we see with every defensive line in the SEC every week," he smiled. "They are really good, but it's nothing we haven't seen before. We face great defensive lines like them every week in the SEC. We just have to go out there ready to play and ready to be challenged.
"They do a lot of the same things our D-Line does. They have a really good nose tackle who fires off the ball, plays with good pad level and is really good with his hands. Their defensive ends are really good. They remind me of our defensive line, which is as good as anyone, in my opinion."
Conyers said the key to the game will be the start.
"Like I said, we have to come out ready to play from the opening snap and show Florida State we are in Orlando to play football," he stated. "I'm looking forward to it.
"I am from Florida, so I will have a lot of family and friends there and it will be exciting for me."
The oldtimer of Rebel football says he's ready to get things going and the Rebels are ready to make a statement.
"Our goal is to go out there and play as hard as we can for every snap," he closed. "From what I have seen in August camp, I feel that is exactly what we will do."
And Conyers will be leading the way.