Just In Time

So today's the day. The 2009 Ole Miss Rebels are reporting for camp.

OK, so the following isn't realistic, but the facts are true. And hey, it's day one, so let's have a little fun. If somebody had been asleep around here for, say, 40 years, they'd swear nothing's changed.

The questions and answers might go something like this.

"So, Ole Miss won the Cotton Bowl back in January, right?"


"And the Rebels are ranked among everybody's top 10 heading into this season?"

Right again.

"Same ole Ole Miss. So when was the last time the Rebs were in the Sugar Bowl? Used to go just about every year. Ole Miss owned New Orleans."

(That would be where this conversation would take a different tone.)

You won't believe this. Ole Miss hasn't been to the Sugar Bowl since you bunked down.

"You're right. I don't believe it. Unless the Sugar Bowl went out of business or something."

The fact is even with 12 of the program's 32 bowl appearances being played since the early 1980s, at times the past 40 years it was Ole Miss football that almost appeared to struggle to stay in business. At least by the standards you remember. Meanwhile the Sugar Bowl has thrived all these years. Except for that one year not long ago when it was played in Atlanta. That's when the whole city of New Orleans almost went out of business.

"Say what?"

Nevermind. Let's stick to the subject at hand. The one about Ole Miss being ranked among the nation's top 10.

"So who else they got ranked up there from the SEC?"

Alabama's up there. LSU's up there. Florida's way up there – as most polls' No. 1 team. The Gators have been national champs a couple of times lately, too.

"Florida? They'd never even won an SEC championship in football when I started yawning."

Well they have now, and they're predicted to win it this time around. But Ole Miss may just have something to say about that. Like last year.


Meaning the Rebels beat the Gators 31-30 in a thriller in the Swamp. It was Florida's only loss all year.

"Got news for you. Beating Florida is expected at Ole Miss. Check who leads the all-time series. And what is the Swamp?"

Well, you're right about the Rebels leading the all-time series with the Gators, and Ole Miss has won three of the last four times they've played, and the last two in Gainesville. The Swamp is where the Gators play. It's the relatively new nickname for Florida Field.

"So who is coaching at Florida these days for them to be that good?"

Fellow named Urban Meyer. Steve Spurrier is the one who really got them going back in the ‘90s.

"I remember him. One of the few quarterbacks that got away from Vaught. He was from up in east Tennessee and Ole Miss finished second for his services. He won the Heisman as a Gator QB. What's he doing now that he's not coaching his alma mater?"

He's coaching at South Carolina.

"South Carolina. So he's coaching in the ACC?"

No. South Carolina is in the SEC now. They left the ACC and went independent for a long time before joining the SEC when Arkansas did.

"Arkansas? In the SEC? Guess I've gotta lotta catching up to do, huh."

Some say Ole Miss has got a shot at the national title this year. Others say they'll stub their toe and won't make a run. Even some Ole Miss fans are worried the Rebels might not be able to finally get to the SEC championship game in Atlanta. But there's a lot of hope and confidence from most.

"To the what in where? There's an SEC championship game now?"

Ole Miss wants to get there for the first time since it started back in 1992.

"If they'd have had that thing back 40, 50, 60 years ago, Ole Miss would have competed for a trip every year. And made it several times. Just like they did the Sugar Bowl. Went eight times. So who's our quarterback this year?"

Guy named Jevan Snead. He's a junior. Played a year at Texas, then transferred to Ole Miss.

"Smart kid, finally winding up in the right place. How good is he?"

Mel Kiper, a guy who keeps up with such stuff, said Jevan might just be the No. 1 draft choice come next spring when NFL teams start picking players.

"Ole Miss always did have good quarterbacks. Had any recently?"

Funny you ask. Remember Archie? He was playing QB at Ole Miss about the time you dropped out of sight for about four decades. His youngest son, Eli, played at Ole Miss and now plays for the New York Giants. Just this week he became the highest paid player in the NFL. Nearly a hundred million for half a dozen years.

"Dollars? A hundred million dollars? No way. Not that much money. Whole teams used to not make that much money."

Yeah, it's true. Archie was once the highest paid player in the NFL back when he played. I heard his top salary was like $600,000.

"Pretty good money, though."

Still pretty good – unless you were the MVP of the Super Bowl.

"Archie was the Super Bowl MVP?"

No, Archie never made the Super Bowl. Eli was the MVP two years ago.

"Where's Eli live?"

In the offseason, he lives in Oxford.

"Smart kid, too. Like Jevan."

What else you wanna know?

"Hey, that's enough. I feel pretty caught up. I'm ready to go watch the Rebels practice. You know, there's no reason why Ole Miss shouldn't be an SEC contender just about every year and be ranked among the nation's best 10 or 20 teams. That's the way I remember things. I mean, the facilities are in place. The coaches are in place. The players are here and more are on the way. The fans are as hungry and supportive as ever. This is Mississippi's football tradition. The whole country's talking about the Ole Miss Rebels, just like I always remember.

Good to know I woke up at just the right time. It's good to be back where I always was. Same goes for the Rebels."

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