From The Grove Stage

The weather held and Shepard Smith held court. The Grove stage was filled with stories of Rebels past and present. And future.

Todd Wade, Marcus Johnson and Von Hutchins were asked about life as Rebels and about life as NFL players. They talked directly to Michael Oher and Peria Jerry concerning what things might be like for them into the future.

They said to them to remember you're seeking employment. It may be their passion and even hobby, but it is also a job they are after. And there are others after that same job.

"Stay hungry," said Wade, much leaner and trimmer than when he played. "Play with a chip on your shoulder. Act like you've been there."

"Stay true to your roots," Johnson said. "Don't forget your family and your background. Keep fighting every day."

"Remember, it's a job interview," Hutchins said. "Get over that awe-struckness, that star-struckness, that the coaches in the room with you are ones you've watched all your life."

Draft Day is coming. Saturday, to be exact.

Shepard said Oher will be on Fox's Studio B Thursday, which elicited a response from the attentive thousands standing beneath the oaks on a partly cloudy Grove Bowl day.

But there was a lot of looking back, too, mainly at the recent past. Dallas, to be exact, and last football season.

"This is what football players are supposed to look like," Coach Houston Nutt said, looking over the group assembled on stage.

Somebody from the audience yelled, "even Shepard."

"Even Shepard," Nutt said, smiling. "He's the all-around everything athlete. Put him in the Wild Rebel and let him work."

After a few laughs, the tone got serious as Nutt talked about last year's finale against Texas Tech.

"Michael Oher, Peria Jerry, Jason Cook, Jamarca Sanford, those guys led us down that ramp to the field," Nutt said. "Peria told ‘em, ‘Do not come down this ramp unless you're going to give it everything you've got."

"It was a very emotional time," Jerry said. "Looking at Coach Nutt looking at us, us looking back at him. It was a really fun moment in time."

"One heartbeat," yelled someone from the crowd.

"One heartbeat," Jerry responded.

"Being in a bowl game for the first time, Coach Nutt and his coaching staff got us there," Oher said. "They made us believe we were a good team. Week in and week out we just worked."

Oher said the team did it all for the fans.

"That was three long seasons that y'all stuck with us," he said. "I know I wouldn't have bought a ticket to come watch us. So we gave y'all something back last year."

That they did, and built a foundation for so much more to come for Ole Miss football and its fans.


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