Dustin Mouzon -

Senior Rebel Cornerback Dustin Mouzon has had some ups and downs his final collegiate campaign, but it appears he will end his Ole Miss career on a high note in the Cotton Bowl, despite what he refers to as the "monumental" challenge of slowing down the high-octane offense of the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

Santa Claus visited the Ole Miss football team Thursday.

The Rebels had been good and deserved some toys.

They each received a 32" high definition television.

"It was real cool to have Santa here handing out TVs," smiled senior Cornerback Dustin Mouzon. "Some of us are graduating from college pretty soon and heading into the real world, but we're still a bunch of kids. I hooked up my TV the first day. It's nice."

For Mouzon, however, Christmas came weeks earlier when it appeared he would spend his senior season playing special teams and watching other players on the team hold down the corner slots.

Then, almost out of nowhere, Mouzon, the starter the previous year, came back in the picture.

"I was hoping I would get another chance. When I was benched after a game or two early in the season, I was depressed, but I didn't hold on to that long," he said. "I realized it would not help my cause to hang my head. I worked hard until I regained the coaches' confidence and it paid off in the long run."

If one was pressed on what single factor helped the Rebels finish 8-4 on the year, including winning their last five in the row and beating Florida in The Swamp earlier in the season, one would have to include the liberal use of personnel by the Reb coaches.

Developing depth, and not having any fear to put that depth in games during crucial situations, was definitely a factor in their success.

And that's where the Dustin Mouzons of the team come into play. "Moo" became one of a three-man rotation with Cassius Vaughn and Marshay Green at the two corner slots and the corner play got significantly better.

"I think it worked because everybody stayed fresh. When you have to run after the wide receivers we face every day in practice and every week in games, you have to be fresh and that's where the depth kicks in," Mouzon explained.

Everything worked better with a rotation. Nobody was tired and everybody was happy. Good results followed.

"I knew I could help this team more than I was when I was just playing special teams, but I had to prove it," Dustin continued. "It all worked out for the best. I was given, and earned, a second chance and I think I capitalized on it."

While just about everything fell in place for the Rebels in a November to Remember, perhaps the toughest challenge on the corners awaits in the form of the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the Cotton Bowl January 2nd.

Coach Houston Nutt is well aware of that and has practiced the Rebs accordingly during bowl preparations. Meaning: hard.

"We understand what the staff is doing. We have not faced a passing attack like Texas Tech has and we need all the work we can get," Mouzon noted. "For me, as a senior, there's a double benefit. I get to put my shoulder pads on and be around my teammates that much longer. I don't want it to end, so the bowl has been a blessing to me."

Mouzon, who is on scheduled to graduate in the spring, has changed his mindset since he first came to Ole Miss about his future.

"When I first came here, I was looking to help the team and get an education, but the longer I have been here and the more I have matured, I have developed some aspirations to play professional football," he said. "I can run with the guys in the SEC so I figure I can run with anyone.

"Why not give it a try? Maybe I can play on the next level, who knows? I'll just work as hard as I can and see where that takes me. If it doesn't work, I've got a degree in my hand. You only get one shot at life, so why not see where it takes you?"

For now, it's taking him and the Rebels into the teeth of Texas Tech's offense.

"They are a lot like Missouri we played a couple of years ago and some aspects of their game is like Florida," he stated. "We know more of the game is going to be on the shoulders of the secondary, so we have to get ready for the ultimate challenge.

"We know we are going to have to run and run and run some more and we can't tap out on any play, period. If it's a 12-play drive, we've got to go. It will take all 11 men doing their job on defense, but we know the pressure is going to be on us."

It's not a challenge the Rebs, Dustin says, are going to back down from.

"It's exciting. We know it's going to be tough, but we also know we are going to get more opportunities to make plays," he closed. "We chose this position for the challenge. We want it."

Santa has already been good to Dustin Mouzon, but he's looking for one more gift he knows he'll have to earn.

How about a Cotton Bowl interception. . . or two?

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