Kickoff Night At The Club

Houston Nutt has many strong attributes. One of them is his ability to lift a crowd of supporters into a pep rally frenzy.

Few coaches are better at it than the third-year head coach of the Ole Miss Rebels. Thursday night in front of a packed Oxford Conference Center crowd, Nutt was at it again.

For much of the early part of his remarks at the annual Kickoff Meeting of the Ole Miss Quarterback Club, it was all about his staff.

"I'm excited about this staff," he said. Then he surprised Tyrone Nix by inviting him to the stage.

"I asked Tyrone if he was going to be here tonight, and he said ‘Sure. Wouldn't miss it,'" Nutt said.

Nix said he didn't know he was asking him that because he was going to invite him up onto the platform to speak.

But it was obvious from the get-go, that was fine with Nix. He smiled and made his way up to the podium as the throng showed its appreciation.

"Now you guys can see why I like working for Coach (Nutt)," said Nix, the leader of the Rebel defense and the assistant head coach.

"This has been the most enjoyable two or three years of my life in this profession," Nix added.

"Then stay here forever," yelled a voice from the crowd, which was seconded by the rest of the room with its applause.

That's what these type summer gatherings are for. Most gathered already know about the team. They study it. In some cases they live it.

There isn't much breaking news at these events. They aren't for those. But on this night, the edge of the seat comments concerned young quarterback Raymond Cotton, who in the past couple of days has expressed some interest in leaving.

Tyrone Nix

As a matter of fact, that was the first question asked by a member of the audience.

Nutt has dealt with many a situation like this during his years of coaching. All coaches have.

He's talked to Raymond at length. Talked to his Dad at even more length. Cotton's parents want him to stay at Ole Miss. Nutt admitted he doesn't feel that good about the situation.

"But we will see," he said.

He's seen it before, maybe not exactly like this. All situations are different. But before, nonetheless.

After co-offensive coordinator Mike Markuson broke down the offense for a bit, Nutt then got another round of cheers.

"I don't know if y'all know it or not, but recruiting is going very well," he said, obviously knowing they know it, and definitely wanting them to let him know they like it.

"I love this staff," Nutt said. "They care about these young men, and they want them to come here and they want to make them better. It's the kind of staff I would want my own to play for."

Nutt answered questions about a lot of aspects of the team. Most of the questions thrown at him were personnel.

"What about Tig?"

"Knock on wood," Nutt said of that one. "There's another week of summer school. Let's don't jinx it."

"What about the incoming guys? Who might contribute?"

"You know, there might be six or seven, maybe eight this time around," he said. "You never know who will mature. You never know who will miss Mom."

"What about Tim Simon and his recovery?"

"That one just breaks your heart," Nutt said. "He's an awesome young man. He won't be ready this fall. We're hopeful for him into the future, but we just don't know."

There were a lot of others, but you get the drift.

Mike Markuson

Then he had a charge for the fans attending.

"We need y'all," he said. "We need you this year more than ever. We've got something special going here. We're building this thing, and we're building good depth."

Like the Ole Miss Quarterback Club. Three years ago following an 0-8 SEC season and a 3-9 overall campaign, there were 120 members, mainly locals, involved. Now, with a much more national presence and push, the membership is more than 1,200.

Lee Meek has served as president for the past two years.

"After reorganization, we've raised more than $200,000 for the football program since March, 2008," Meek said.

Now that is impressive. And helpful.

There are members in 38 states now.

"And two foreign countries," added Meek.

All the numbers are likely to grow as Ole Miss football continues to grow under Nutt and company.

"We haven't always had the cooperation of a coaching staff like we do now," Meek said. "Them being involved has been so important to what we're doing. Coach Nutt and all of his staff are members of the Quarterback Club."

On this night, a new segment of the club doubled in size. There were only two members of The Winner's Circle, as it's called, when the evening started. Those are members who annually give $1,000 or more to the club to help Ole Miss football. By the end of the event, there were four.

"We like the direction we're headed," Meek said.

Certainly the same can be said for all things Ole Miss football.

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