The dawn of another Ole Miss Football season is upon us.
For more than a century, people from far and wide have gathered heart and soul around a proud program that’s given us legends like Charlie Conerly, Johnny Vaught, Archie Manning and his son, Eli, Patrick Willis, Donte Moncrief and Laquon Treadwell, to name only a few of the great Rebels to have made their way through that vaunted Grove, between the throngs gathered around that Walk of Champions and into the cathedral we call Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
And now a new group of legends is waiting in the wings. Perhaps one of the best wide receiver trios to ever grace the same playing field, complete with large quantities of bravado along with the size and skill to back it up. Their names are Brown, Metcalf, an Ole Miss legacy in his own right, and Lodge, but we call them NWO, which stands for Nasty Wide Outs, and if you’ve ever seen them play you know the name fits. They’re nasty alright. Nasty good.
Behind a bruising offensive line stacked with experience will be a quarterback who took the unlikeliest of paths from Hawaii to a small junior college out west before finally being offered the chance to back up the then-heralded Shea Patterson. They were polar opposites. Patterson was the pedigreed 5-star and Jordan Ta’amu the unheard of juco player there to back him up. The roles were clearly defined. It seemed unlikely that Ta’amu would ever see the field unless Patterson just needed a breather.
Fortunately, no one told Ta’amu that.
When Patterson went down against LSU, Ta’amu was as ready as a surfer waiting for that perfect wave. And now half a season, and an Egg Bowl victory later, the privilege of captaining the Ole Miss offense belongs to him. Patterson is an afterthought. This is Ta’amu’s team now, and the Hawaiian is primed to leave his mark as one of the best quarterbacks to ever wear the red and blue. With NWO as his targets, anything is possible. Now that’s a good story.
This could be the best offense Ole Miss fans have ever seen. In fact, it has the potential to be the best offense a lot of other fans have ever seen, too.
This team might win more than its share of games, too. When you have an offense that’s good enough to cause problems for anybody on the schedule it’s okay to be optimistic.
Sure there are questions.
The Ole Miss defense is full of them. Questions that can only be answered after the whistle blows. But there is hope. Especially this side of September.
This could be a special season.
And not one time while I was writing these thoughts did I mention the words NCAA or bowl ban. Do you know why?
Because we don’t give a damn. We’re Rebels after all. This is our school. It’s our season. It’s our chance to cheer and hope and angst and fret. These are our boys. All of them. No matter where they’re from – Hawaii, Starkville, New York or California. They’re all Rebels now, and in that red and blue they’re bonded to us forever.
Just like their head coach. One of the grittiest centers to ever play for the Rebels, like Manning and Metcalf, Matt Luke is another living legacy out there trying to do great things for his school, taking a proud family history and crowning it with a turn as the head coach at the school he’s loved since he was a little boy.
So, yeah, NCAA. You can kiss our derrieres. This is our story. It’s our year and it’s our time. Our time to enjoy Ole Miss Football with our fathers, sons, moms, wives and daughters, not to mention friends from long ago and the guy wearing an Ole Miss cap that just happens to be sitting next to us at the bar. Our time to watch a new chapter of the great storybook that is Ole Miss Football unfold.
Are we ready?
Hell yeah we are.
We’re Ole Miss by damn.