When Ole Miss Football Coach Houston Nutt stood before the media after the Grove Bowl on Saturday, he said, "Ole Miss won today."
He was not talking about the spring game. . . He was talking about Ole Miss - the university, the people, the athletic department, the fans, the M-Club, the J.W. "Wobble" Davidson Scholarship Fund, Eli Manning, Patrick Willis, Derrick Burgess, the Walk of Champions, the baseball game, the track meet, the tennis match, the beautiful weather, the record crowd, the atmosphere.
That the Blue Team mauled the Red Team 40-14 in the Grove Bowl game seemed second by three miles to the relatively new mentor of our football team.
My interpretation of "Ole Miss won today" meant much, much more.
It was, simply put, a fine day to be a Rebel.
How many schools can say they have 28,000 folks show up for a spring game? Not as many as you think. Spring games are not really known for the electricity they produce. They can be downright boring - not this one. Our team and fans are hungry for a change and eager to buy in. This was a start.
How many schools can boast of having a Super Bowl MVP and the NFL Defensvie Rookie of the Year not only address the team with some words to live by (read the story on the front page on what Eli and P-Willie told the team) but also spend time with their college fans in the Grove? Real heroes who are also real, caring human beings are hard to come by, and we've got at least two, for sure.
How many schools are blessed to have a guy like Houston Nutt as their coach? Yes, I put him on a pedestal in his profession. Not because he's a proven winner on the field, there are lots of those, but because I've found in my limited dealings with him that he is a proven winner off the field as well. Another good human being you want leading our youth. That's the only bottom line you care about when you get my age. I'll say this to you, and I've said it to him. I wouldn't trade him.
How many schools can say they had nearly 10,000 people at a baseball game, despite ongoing construction making some seats less than appealing?
How many can say they beat LSU, a traditional baseball powerhouse, like a rented mule in that atmosphere?
How many can brag of a tennis program that fears no team and beats most? Or a Brittney Reese on their track team?
How many schools have the kind of bond we have among our fans where it seems you know everyone?
Days like Saturday highlight and accent all the things we have to be thankful for as Rebel supporters.
And that's not saying one single word about our football team, which also shows pretty good potential and sure signs they are a program, as Eli said, on the rise.
How can anyone not be excited about Jevan Snead, Dexter McCluster, Peria Jerry, Michael Oher, Allen Walker, Shay Hodge, Mike Wallace, John Jerry, Cordera Eason, Ashlee Palmer, Jamarca Sanford, Marshay Green, Jason Cook, Gerald Harris, Greg Hardy, Marcus Tillman, Kentrell Lockett, et al? Beats me.
Sure, the team is a work in progress. Sure, there are gaps. No, we won't conquer the world of college football next year.
But from what I have seen, from the standpoint of a starting point for a team, I'm not fretting next season.
For the first time since 2003, I will go into every game with hope and confidence. That will be a novel feeling, but one I'll just have to learn to live with.
From what I have seen in spring, they have only scratched the surface and they are already looking better than I can recall since the Eli days.
The staff is coaching up a storm, the players are digging in and having fun, the development of the available talent is obvious and the future looks bright. Is there anything more to it than that?
Well, yes, there is. You.
What can be said about our fans to really express how special they can be when they put their minds to it, like Saturday? Four losing seasons in a row and we get a spring game record in attendance? Outsiders might suggest we are gluttons for punishment. I say we are loyal in a day and age where loyalty is in short supply.
To me, you were the ace in the hole. While Houston, Eli, Patrick, Derrick, Bianco, Chadwick, Snead, the players and the staffs all made the day a fantastic one, you - the fans - made it a special one.
Kudos all around.
As Houston said, "Ole Miss won."
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