'Nearly Perfect'

When Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix preaches consistency, he holds senior MLB Jonathan Cornell up as his model. Read about it inside.

If Ole Miss Middle Linebacker Jonathan Cornell had a fan club, Rebel Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix would be a candidate for its president.

Or so you would think listening to Nix talk about the California native.

"Jonathan is just about the perfect student-athlete," said Nix matter-of-factly. "He's a great young man. He's got character, he's a leader and he's as consistent as any player we've got.

"Jonathan was one of our main leaders in the offseason and he had an excellent spring. The thing about him that excites you as a coach is that he comes to work every day focused. I know what I am going to get from him every rep, and that's his best. I love coaching him."

Coming from Nix, who readily concedes he's a demanding coach, that says a lot about Cornell.

Tyrone Nix

So why is Cornell often the forgotten man in coffee shop talk? Nix knows why.

"Jonathan isn't a flashy player. He's not a big hitter, he's not real flamboyant in his style of play, but I promise you, he is effective," Tyrone continued. "Jonathan is a fundamental tackler. He gets people on the ground, and he's smart enough to understand that is the name of the game, not the ooh and aah hits. Sure, the fans like that, but it's about putting ball carriers on the ground."

As Jonathan prepares for his last season as a Rebel, he's at peace with his world, even though it seems to be flashing by him rapidly.

"I really can't believe I am a senior. This time has flashed by," said Cornell, an extremely bright young man who measures his words carefully. "It seems like yesterday Cassius Vaughn and I were on the sidelines watching the veterans get their reps and wondering where we fit into the whole scheme of college football. I mean, really, like yesterday."

Cornell briefly - any talk with J.C. is somewhat brief, he does not prattle on and on about much of anything - reflected on his career, now entering its final stages.

"As a player, I have gained a lot of wisdom. I know what's going on around me now and the demands of the sport," he said, condensing his career into a few lines. "And if you play this sport for any length of time on this level, you become a man.

"It's been a great experience for me to be here. I developed deep relationships with people I never knew before from a different region of the country and have been away from home and on my own for this whole time. This is probably one of the greatest experiences I will every have in my life."

Out of high school, where he starred in the Cally prep leagues, Jonathan could have gone to Southern Cal - the dream of most California schoolboys.

But he wanted something different for his football journey.

Jonathan Cornell

"I wanted to be a part of going somewhere that needed me to help turn things around. What all of us have accomplished here in our four or five years makes me really, really proud," he explained. "I know I made the right decision.

"I'm not saying it would have been easy at USC, but I think, at the time, the Ole Miss path was more of a challenge and that's what I wanted."

It's fair to say, and Jonathan agrees, he came to Ole Miss as a boy and leaves as a man.

"The coming of age in Mississippi, pretty neat story I can remember forever," he cotninued. "Truly, I became a man in this building (IPF)."

So what does he take from this long-distance adventure from home?

"One thing that I will take from here wherever I go is Southern hospitality," he stated. "Life's better when people are nice and good to each other.

"The rest are lessons I learned in football and in the classroom - the value of dedication, work, discipline, sticking to things, pressing on, having an enthusiasm about everything you do. I think those attributes will pay dividends in life, no matter what I do."

Cornell, obviously, wants to go out with a bang.

"We've done some real good things as a team the past two years, but we don't want to stop here," he closed. "This year's seniors want to leave a lasting legacy.

"When I come back here in the years to come, it would be real cool to have people remember us as the group that did something special and got something lasting going."

A nearly perfect statement from a nearly perfect student-athlete.

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