Sowell ready for first real campaign as a Reb

Bradley Sowell is a believer that things are better. As a matter of fact, he knows it.

This time around he is scheduled to play. That in itself is a good start for the offensive tackle.

But the 6-foot-7, 305-pounder from Hernando said last year was one of growth for him, and not just physically.

"At first I was probably like a lot of people. I didn't want to be redshirted. I wanted to play," said Sowell, who enters fall practice as the No. 2 left tackle behind veteran Michael Oher but also could see some time at right tackle.

That was then; this is now. He couldn't be more pleased he's got four years ahead of him in an Ole Miss uniform.

"Now that I'm only about to be a freshman, I'm really excited," said Sowell, who turned 19 on June 6. "Last year benefitted me a lot. I know so much more than I did then. I really can't believe I'm just about to be a freshman this year with all I've already learned and done. I believe it will just keep getting better and building from here."

Same for the offensive line and the team as a whole, he says.

"Our big thing's been working on getting mentally tougher. Deck's (strength coach Don Decker) challenged us a lot this summer with conditioning, and its gone well. Everybody's responded well to it and come together as a team. The tougher it's getting, the better we seem to be pushing through. That was a problem for us last year. We'd start out good but couldn't finish. We're trying to change that."

It could be compared to his own body. Sowell has transformed it since his high school days.

"When I got here I was like 320. Now I'm down to about 305. I try to stay between 295 and 305. My highest weight was like 364 (in December, 2006), and since then I've lost a lot of weight."

That was back in high school, when he was getting ready to sign with Ole Miss, before he committed to get in better shape as he headed to college.

During his last semester of high school, he worked at it. Last summer he worked at it more. Last fall as a redshirt he continued to work at it while learning the ropes as a D-I college football player.

When Houston Nutt and staff entered the picture late last calendar year, Sowell was motivated even more to get ready for his first season. That continues today as practice is right around the corner.

"It was like a new start," he said of the change in the coaching staff. "It wasn't going to be the same attitude around here. I believe I was even more disciplined to get ready for this season and do what the coaches wanted me to do and working hard."

He's learned from those ahead of him, like Oher, for example.

"He's a quiet guy and you can ask him anything. He's not cocky at all, even though he knows he's going to be a bigtime (NFL) pick. He doesn't act like it at all," Sowell said of the senior All-SEC and All-American candidate. "Anytime I have a question or anytime I need to watch him work on something, he's helpful. I'm much better having worked behind him and with him."

Sowell is hopeful of playing time and helping the Rebels win games. He believes his career is on the right track.

"You never know how a season's going to go. But (OL) Coach (Mike) Markuson is telling me if I stay focused, I can be a big-time rotater guy. I'm pretty athletic and I work hard. We all start out the same, so I hope I'll get to play a lot."

But Sowell isn't the same as he was a year ago. He's improved in every way, and he believes the entire offensive line is going to be better.

"We've got more experience," he said. "The young guys are learning from the older guys. The older guys are really stepping up. It seems like we'll be a good O-line this year."

And all the while protecting a solid starting quarterback in Jevan Snead. Sowell is excited about what he brings to the offense.

"He's a real-deal quarterback," he said of the third-year sophomore who is set to take his first game snaps at Ole Miss on Aug. 30 when Memphis comes to town. "He's got all the tools to be a great quarterback. He's a leader in the huddle and we believe in what he does."

Much like the program as a whole heading into a brand new season.

"It's a new feel. It's a new attitude. There's a lot of trust here now," Sowell said. "It's such a team atmosphere around here, a real family now. We believe in ourselves."

And for Sowell it couldn't be better since he basically grew up with the Ole Miss family in this area and always wanted to play here.

"Growing up in Mississippi, I was a small-town guy," he said. "I wanted to play for my homestate. I was born and raised here. I just knew all my life coming to games here that this is where I wanted to play. If I'd been the best player in the nation or the worst player in the nation, I was going to come to Ole Miss."

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