Nutt has 'awesome' year

Everyone associated with Ole Miss knows what Houston Nutt has meant to Rebel football in just one short year. But what has the 2008 squad meant to him?

Houston Nutt, Mississippi Sportsman of the Year.

Houston Nutt, director of a remarkable turnaround in Rebel football, taking a team that went 0-8 in the SEC a year ago to the Cotton Bowl this year.

Houston Nutt, SEC Co-Coach of the Year, deservedly.

It's not hard to figure out what Houston has meant to Ole Miss football, but what has Ole Miss football meant to him?

To answer that, we have to backtrack a bit before allowing him to say it in his own words.

We're not going to rehash all the black details of his departure from Arkansas, but one has to point out that Houston - even as positive as he is - was a "wounded" man when he came to Ole Miss, essentially run off from the school and state he cherished and poured his soul into.

Could he really adapt to Mississippi and Ole Miss with roots as deep as he had on the other side of Old Man River? Would his family learn to love our part of the country? Did he still have his stinger after such a painful ending in Fayetteville?

Those were legitimate questions.

On top of that, he was inheriting a talented, but downtrodden, team with little direction.

At first, the thinking is here, Nutt had an "I'll-show-them" attitude toward Arkansas, but as he got more and more into his Rebel team and Ole Miss, his quest quit being about getting even. It became a journey to right a wayward, and sinking, ship and send it sailing in the right direction.

Houston was not only rebuilding a team, he was rebuilding himself, retooling his arsenal, building back his passion and planting new roots.

In the end, Houston Nutt was just what Ole Miss needed, but in the same breath, Ole Miss was just what Houston Nutt needed as well. A marriage, if you will, that was meant to be.

"Diana and I talked about this year the other night," reflected Houston. "This has been one of the greatest years of life and coaching we have ever had. I can't express what this team and this school have meant to me and my family.

"First of all, Oxford/Ole Miss is a great place to live and there is great tradition in that town and school. There had been some down years, but you could see the potential and the opportunity. We are grateful we had the chance to help turn it around."

The old saying goes something like this: it's not the destination, it's the journey. Houston Nutt and the Rebels have been on one helluva journey.

"Change is sometimes hard for young people. The transition to us and our way of doing things which led to the journey we have been on has been awesome," he continued. "We've enjoyed every step of it.

"When I first got here, I heard remarks about me coaching guys who would steal a clock or whatever. Let me tell you something, we have a lot of great character kids on this team, kids who have done great things and will continue to do great things. A lot of them are going to walk across the stage to get a degree.

"They have meant so much to my family. From the very first time they came to my house, I knew they could be special if they just believed they were good. They hung on every word. Everything was fresh and new and exciting for them and for us."

The "new" translated into unity and "team" and eventually into wins.

"There's nothing like going to war with these guys. To see their hurt after the Vandy loss and to see their joy after the LSU and Florida and Arkansas and Mississippi State wins - there is nothing like it. It's about relationships and accomplishing something together," he stated. "Just to see them get their Cotton Bowl watch, or win a big game, or come to practice with a gleam in their eye.

"It's just been a joy, a joy I cannot even express to you."

Houston Nutt "saved" Ole Miss football.

And, in the end, Ole Miss football "saved" him.

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