Impact Freshman

Like most freshmen, Ole Miss signee Joel Kight has lofty goals for his first year in Red and Blue. But after totaling impressive numbers for King HS in Lithonia, Ga., the talented newcomer feels more than equipped to meet those expectations. Read about it inside.

Having lost departed seniors Ashlee Palmer and Tony Fein to graduation, Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt hit the recruiting trail in search of a talented linebacker who could make an immediate impact.

Nutt found that and more with the signature of King HS standout Joel Kight.

After collecting 153 tackles as a senior, the 5-foot-9, 210 pound athlete from Lithonia was named the 2007 Class 5A and Region 6AAAAA Defensive Player of the Year in the state of Georgia.

Receiving countless offers after his breakout senior year, Kight chose Ole Miss over the likes of Auburn, Boston College, Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech. He had no trouble qualifying academically, and plans to arrive in Oxford Tuesday.

"It started to hit me when I started packing," Kight said of being on the verge of his collegiate career. "But it really won't hit me until I get there. I leave Tuesday morning and plan on arriving that afternoon. The first thing I'm going to do is try and settle in. I'll talk with Coach (Tyrone) Nix and then get into the flow of being in school."

While Kight feels he's in good shape, Scout.com's 59th-ranked linebacker anticipates a drastic difference in his strength and conditioning at the next level.

"Coach Nix told me he likes linebackers that can run, so I've been trying to stay in shape," he said. "There's no way to prepare yourself for the running you'll be doing (at the next level) until you experience their conditioning program. I worked out with the track team this spring, which really helped my burst. I feel like I have a burst I didn't have last year."

During the spring, Ole Miss sends a strenuous workout program to every member of the new crop of freshmen to help prepare them for the work on tap for the next four years.

Kight has followed the regimen closely, and can already see the benefits.

"It's tough, but it's helped me get stronger and in better shape," Kight said. "I've really stuck with it. I can already tell it's made a difference."

While the Rebels feature a talented group of underclassmen on the depth chart, the team is rather thin behind the starting trio of MLB Jonathan Cornell, OLB Allen Walker and OLB Patrick Trahan.

With a reasonable chance to play early, Kight is focusing on making an immediate impact once he steps foot on campus.

"I want to make an impact quick," said Kight. "Some freshmen come in and play or start, but don't make a real impact. I want to make an impact.

"Once I get over the feeling of actually being there, it'll be time to go to work. I'm not going all the way to Mississippi to sit. I'm going to work hard and do anything I can to help the team."

Off the field, Kight also has some personal goals academically.

Kight said he plans on majoring in business at Ole Miss, with hopes of possibly owning his own business once his career in football comes to an end.

"I'm thinking about majoring in business or management," he said. "I want to own my own business someday. I realize there's life after football. When it's over, I'll need something to fall back on."

Life is about to change for Kight, but the adjustment is one he feels prepared for.

Along with being a full-time student, his days will consist of constant football activities. But for Kight, a demanding schedule won't be too much to handle.

"I've talked to a lot of my friends who play football. (Current Rebel) Aaron Hawkins said it's your life," said Kight. "It's either school or football. But this is something I've wanted. I can't wait to get started."


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