Game Week

Game week. It's finally here. Took a while, didn't it?

How long has it been since the Cotton Bowl? Seems like more than nearly eight months. And spring practice? Seems like it didn't even happen.

The long, actually not so hot summer is over for football, at least in terms of the season finally being here. Just felt like it dragged on forever.

Maybe that's what happens when the team is ranked in the top 10. Let's just go ahead and attribute the wait to that.

For the past five years from time to time I've thought to myself I didn't enjoy the Eli years, especially that last one, enough. Sure, I had fun like you did. But I just didn't absorb it and soak it all in like I should have. And I've thought about that sometimes.

After watching the first part of practice Friday, I left and headed to find a USA Today. I had heard earlier last week Jevan and Coach Nutt were going to be featured. I saw a reporter at practice early in the week and wasn't sure who she was. Kelly Whiteside of USA Today; check out Friday's paper, I was told.

So I found one the first place I checked, even at 5 p.m. It was the last one in that particular rack. It was an impressive find.

I read the whole thing right there before heading back to wrap up practice. Jevan's final quote, the last paragraph of the story, hit me. Made me stop and think. Forced me to revisit that old feeling of just not enjoying the Eli years quite enough.

"That would be surreal," Snead was quoted as saying when asked what it would be like to possibly beat Florida in Atlanta, join Tebow and McCoy in NYC for the Heisman presentation and then face Texas in the Rose Bowl.

But he didn't stop there.

"You dream of something like that, but you can't dwell on it..."

And then he summed it up for all of us.

"...because you'll miss what's going on right now."

I went back to practice Friday thinking about this whole thing a little differently, thanks to the Rebel quarterback's quotes. It seemed like at that moment I allowed myself to grasp for the first time what's really happening here.

Sure, I know how good the Rebels can be and I've seen the polls, mags, and predictions like you have.

But I decided then I'd try not to have the slightest bit of regret when I looked back at the 2009 season. I didn't want to sit around, as I've done for the last five years from time to time, and say "Man, I just didn't enjoy it all enough."

It's almost as if today, Sunday, Aug. 30, is the last day before things really get rolling. On Monday afternoon it's Nutt's first weekly press conference of the season. The week to week routine – game week one – will have begun.

This team appears to have done what it said it would, and that's keep everything in perspective. They've worked hard all summer and in August, and followed the advice of the coaches to remember what got them there last year.

It's been impressive to witness the work ethic of the players and the leadership of the veterans. The newcomers have made an impact and several will help out this season.

When you've been out to the practice field as many years as Chuck and I have now, it's easy to let your mind's eye wander and see things as maybe just another day at the office. But this isn't just another day.

This day, this year, is different. This year, it's a team ranked in the top 10 out there, a first even in Chuck's 28 preseasons covering Ole Miss football.

So many things are different this time around. The Rebels are being called some pretty heavy and impressive things.

As the Washington Post story by Eric Prisbell today said, Snead "has become the face of one of the nation's premier teams..."

Gotta like the sound of that. Obviously you do, as the sold out sign for season tickets attests.

So a week from today and it's kickoff. The Rebels, who so many around the country have talked about this summer, will be the only game on TV next Sunday afternoon. No NFL. No other college games at 2:30.

Just the Rebels and Memphis on ESPN.

And the excitement will be higher than maybe ever for Ole Miss faithful, certainly in a couple of generations. As Prisbell wrote, "Not even Eli Manning's Ole Miss tenure created this stir."

A tenure I certainly enjoyed but not as much as I should have, looking back. I made up my mind two days ago to make sure I did this time around.

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