Mississippi is a State of small towns and close knit communities. Family, for most of us is the most important thing in our lives. Where we go to college or play college sports is also largely based on family ties. We tend to follow our parents or older siblings up to Oxford; because Ole Miss is also a large part of our family.
(This article originally printed in RebelNationMagazine)
We are blessed to have followed and cheered for some outstanding football families at Ole Miss which make up our own “Band of Brothers,” and if you are lucky enough to have played beside your brother at any level you know how special of an occurance it is for those families.
Today we have the Nkemdiche brothers and the Moore twins on the team but we have enjoyed watching standout brothers play together at Ole Miss for at least 80 years.
One of the most famous lines of siblings to ever play at Ole Miss was one of the first. The Poole brothers of Amite County, Mississippi. Buster Poole only began playing football his senior year in high school when he transferred to Natchez High School in the mid-1930’s.
Buster’s obvious natural talents were quickly recognized and he was introduced to the game of football. He soon began teaching his brother’s in the back yard and thus began a family legacy that has so far resulted in over 50 athletic letters to family members of the Poole’s with the most recent member in 2004’s Rob Robertson.
Don’t forget about one of Ole Miss’ first All-American’s with Bruiser Kinard (35-37) and his brothers Henry and George; the great running back Merle Hapes (39-41) and his brothers Clarence and Ray, who can be found still in the record books for punt and kick returns. The Mannings, I don’t have to say any more than that.
I could fill this entire magazine with stories about Ole Miss athletic families but I had the chance to talk to three guys in particular that shared some insight into their time at Ole Miss with their brothers.
Belton Johnson hails from the very small town of Coffeeville MS and arrived at Ole Miss as a walk-on in Tuberville’s last year. After some hard work and a coaching change he was rewarded with a scholarship and in 2002 his brother Marcus was able to join him on the field.
Belton and Marcus not only played together they played right beside each other and that brotherly connection helped make both of them better players that resulted in two pro careers.
“It’s one thing thing to be on the same team as your brother but how many people can say they played side by side with their sibling? My brother and I can. Marcus and I are so close to each other to this day, even though he’s coaching the offensive line at Duke and I’m living in Regina, SK, Canada. We Face-Time at least 2-3 times a week and text on a daily basis. Even before he got to Oxford, Marcus would always encourage me to never give up and I would always push him to be great. Marcus and I truly had and still have a unique bond. My mom (Glenda Smith) was so happy to have both her boys playing so close to home as it was only a 30 minute drive from Coffeeville to Oxford. Little did my mom know, we were happy to be close to home too, as mom would often feed the offensive line either at our place in Oxford or home in Coffeeville. LOL!!! Big grocery bills!”
John Fourcade was a read-option QB before there was such a thing and is still one of the top five Rebels in touchdowns in his career with 22. The Gretna Louisiana native was at Ole Miss from 1978 to 1981 along with his linebacker brother Keith (79-82).
To John, having his brother at Ole Miss was very important factor during his recruiting.
“When I was being recruited, for me to go to Ole Miss, my brother would have to get a scholarship. We played together in high school and I wanted him to get a big time scholarship. Having him on the team with me and as my roommate for a year was special, so our family could see us both play together.
Keith made a name for himself up at Ole Miss; he was the leader in tackles one season. Being able to have your brother play with me for three years, made it easier for me to play. I knew on offense I would be the leader and on defense he would lead.
It was just a dream come true to watch him on defense and for him to watch me do my thing on offense.”
It is hard to find a family outside of the Manning’s that contribute more to the Oxford area than previous Oxford Mayoral candidate Todd Wade and his brother Justin.
The Wade’s played high school ball at Jackson Prep. Todd was an All-American offensive lineman from 1996 to 1999 and Justin was a linebacker from (00 to 03). Justin lets us in on some special moments of playing with Todd.
“Having a brother who had already played (for a while) on the collegiate level gave me great insight on what to expect when I arrived from the get-go. Just seeing how hard Todd worked at his craft was a great learning experience even when I was still in high school because he would workout consistently even when he was in Jackson for the holidays.
I really tried to duplicate what he did, but pretty quickly in two-a-days it was apparent I would be redshirting. He told me to work hard that first year but enjoy yourself. It didn’t take him long to come back to me and say, ‘Whooo! I didn’t mean for you to have that much fun!’
We went against each other a few times in practice but I was low on the totem pole. There is an unwritten rule that a younger brother should find his own way a bit and not get shielded by his brother.
You have to ultimately stand on your own and earn the respect of your teammates. The seniors that year (Todd included) planned a big hazing ritual which they had to endure as freshman by running down sorority row in only our jock straps! We were a little freaked out, this was not like (standing up and singing) karaoke, this was sorority row in my underwear! There was no doubt I was going to do it. I would never back down, but luckily Coach Cutcliffe caught wind of it and put an end to the idea. That was the best news I had ever heard!
Having the opportunity to play with and share those times with your brother was an incredible experience and I will always appreciate what I gained from it.”