When New York Giants' Quarterback Eli Manning approached the podium at the Ole Miss IPF, over 400 Rebels of the female gender screamed and applauded in delight.
Manning, an Ole Miss football hero who will reach legendary status with the passing of time, was the main speaker at the Ole Miss Ladies Football Forum, a day set aside each year for women interested in Ole Miss football to get an up-close-and-personal look at the Rebel football operation.
The forum is the brainchild of Chyna Ward, the longtime senior assistant to the head football coach.
It is such a successful event that Chyna has been called upon by several schools to give them a blueprint of her ladies forum so they could have one too.
"Chyna does a wonderful job with the Ladies Football Forum," said Manning, who took questions for 30 minutes from the adoring crowd. "She was great to me when I was here. I am happy to be a part of the ladies football forum.
"When I was a player here, I used to show weightlifting techniques to the ladies and always enjoyed being a part of the day."
The ladies get an inside look at the entire Ole Miss football scene, from the weight room to the training room to the meeting rooms to talks by the assistant coaches to the equipment room.
"We try to make it fun and informative," said Chyna, who does a tremendous job of directing traffic and herding groups of women from one station to the next. "I am so appreciative of Eli taking time out of his schedule to be our special speaker this year. He is a jewel to Ole Miss and Ole Miss football and for him to recognize what we do as something he wants to be a part of makes me very proud."
Women from 8 to 90 participate. Many have been to every Ladies Football Forum since its inception.
"I see a lot of the same faces each year, and I love them all, but it's exciting to watch the event grow and see new faces too. I think Ole Miss women have a true passion for Rebel football and this gives them an opportunity to be more a part of it," Chyna continued.
Eli was "grilled" on the Giants, his favorite Rebel memories (the comeback against Auhurn at Auburn his senior season was his choice), what it takes to succeed in the NFL and everything you can imagine.
"Ole Miss people are my family outside of my real family. It's always great to be back in Oxford and to stay in touch," he told the crowd. "It's hard to narrow down my memories to one or two things - there are so many of them."
At the same time, Coach Ed Orgeron and his staff were holding the Fantasy Camp, which has also grown substantially.
"We have more participants than ever before," O said. "The staff enjoys this day. We want it to continue to grow."
The fantasy campers take a more hands-on, physical approach. They actually go through the same drills, meetings, film sessions, etc., the team goes through. They practice in the morning and play games, including the Rebel pregame routine, in the afternoon.
"We want the guys who come to the event to get a good feel for what the players and the coaches do in our program," O stated.
If you ever get a chance, mark on your calendars the dates for the Ladies Football Forum and Fantasy Camp. Join the fun. You won't regret it.
Ladies forum rocks!
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