Category Archives: Ole Miss Football

AP Photo.  LM Otero

Ole Miss vs NCAA: Compare Penalties in the SEC

There is a simple reality we must face as fans of a small market school in a monster college football conference. The rules don’t always apply equally to every school.  Some teams get a pass from the NCAA and some teams pay the price.

(See this article in the next edition of REBEL NATION Magazine!)

If you are on a championship pace and making the conference a lot of money, potential violations and investigations can get put on the shelf or minimized. If your star QB is signing autographs for cash or his daddy is shopping your services to the highest bidder, sometimes the SEC will turn a blind eye for the good of the whole.  And if boosters get real wild, the SEC can always pound on MSU or Ole Miss to make an example for Alabama and LSU.

That should teach ‘em a lesson!

Here is a look back in time at egregious rules violations that never seemed to get any traction from the NCAA investigators.

Compared to these cases, I expect Ole Miss to only lose 7-8 scholarships in their upcoming meeting with the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions.

2004 LSU’s Academic Scandal

Nick Saban gets embroiled in a systematic grade changing scheme unveiled by a University instructor.

The LSU football team academic culture was “appalling” and “like Romper Room” stated the LSU professor in sworn testimony.

Backed up by graduate students and academic advisors, the academic fraud included plagiarized papers, un-enrolled students showing up to take notes and players that often slept in class.

Current NCAA president Mark Emmert, then LSU Chancellor, went to bat for the coach he hired; the coach that made him the highest paid University President at the time. He also went to bat for his own career as he was on an upward trajectory to Indianapolis.

Emmert “investigated” the claims of the academic staff and per USA Today, Emmert found only five minor isolated problems, resulting in self-imposed penalties of two lost scholarships in football.

LSU’s 82 page report on the investigations said, “the allegations were largely unfounded.”

The NCAA accepted Emmert’s investigation and declined to even place LSU on probation.

The academic staff sued the University after being wrongfully terminated.

Under oath, a witness in the case stated the LSU investigation was “whitewashed” to minimize the damage. They interviewed the people they wanted to.  It was typical damage control.”

The attorney for the plaintiffs said academic fraud is systemic at LSU. The University settled with the two women for over $110,000 each according to the USA Today article. (“Digging into the past of NCAA president Mark Emmert”, April 2, 2013, Brent Schrotenboer)

The SEC and LSU was rewarded soon after with a national championship in Baton Rouge in 2004.

2011 Auburn’s Golden Child

Cam Newton is a once in a generational type QB that was forced out at Florida as a freshman due to his possession of stolen property. Even with his questionable background, he was a highly valued “free agent” looking for a place to play for the 2010 season.

Cam’s dad Cecil Newton took the opportunity to shop his son’s eligibility to the highest bidder.

According to investigation documents in the Associated Press article, Mississippi State booster Kenny Rogers worked with Cecil to solicit between $120,000 to $180,000 from MSU for the services of Cam Newton.

(“Auburn releases Cam Newton Docs,” November 5, 2011 AP Reports)

Cam eventually chose to play at Auburn University and according to Auburn University, they were never propositioned for payments.

Auburn’s argument against NCAA penalties for Cam’s illegal recruitment to the NCAA was Kenny Rogers was not a legal agent for Cam. They allege the player never had a written or verbal agreement for Rogers or his dad to act on his behalf.  Rogers was allegedly not paid for his role in the pay for play scheme.

The NCAA investigation found Rogers and Cecil did approach other schools for Cam’s services, specifically Oklahoma and Kansas State.

During the 13 month investigation that coincided with an undefeated season for Auburn and was headed for a Heisman trophy and another national championship for the SEC, the NCAA’s Academic and Membership affairs staff declared Cam Newton ineligible to play on November 30, 2010.

Surprisingly, the NCAA reversed this decision and allowed Cam to play in the SEC championship game the very next day.

The NCAA’s paper thin excuse was Cam didn’t know his father was doing anything nefarious and they couldn’t find any contact between Auburn and Rogers or Cecil during the recruitment.

There were never any penalties for Cam Newton’s recruitment. Cam never missed a game and no other schools were investigated for the proven pay for play plan.

Alabama. (Multiple years over multiple coaches)

Alabama is dirty. That is not an opinion, it’s just a statement of fact.

Even though the Crimson Tide is the most penalized school in the SEC’s history, much of their actual penalties are far smaller than the actual violations. (“NCAA Ruling Indicates a Turning Tide,” June 11, 2009 Ivan Maisel)

1993. Gene Stalling’s hides the fact that corner Antonio Langham has an agent during the Tides sixth AP national championship season. The NCAA Committee on Infractions ruled Alabama would lose 26 scholarships and serve a three-year probation. (The actual penalties handed down were 17 and 2).

2000.  A University of Alabama booster agreed to pay Memphis defensive Tackle Albert Means $200,000. The investigation was only broken when Means’ former high school coach came clean with a Memphis newspaper reporter. The NCAA committee stated Alabama was facing the death penalty.  The school actually received 5 years probation, a two-year bowl ban and lost 21 scholarships.

2009. Alabama’s free textbook program for athletes was uncovered. A systematic buy back program that benefited Alabama’s athletes in every sport that helped put cash in their pockets. The NCAA uncovered 201 players had received benefits in 15 different sports. In this case no scholarship reductions were imposed by the NCAA.

2011.  Alabama player signs an agent during another National Championship run. According to Yahoo Sports , at least $33,755 was given to Alabama offensive tackle by a sports agent to recruit for his business once he became a professional football player. The only problem, DJ Fluker was still in college.

(“Documents, Text Messages Reveal Impermissible Benefits to Five SEC Players,” Sept. 11, 2013, Rand Getlin)

Sports agent Luther Davis had contact with five SEC players in the 2011-2012 seasons, also given cash, transportation and goods to UT QB Tyler Bray, UT defensive end Maurice Couch and Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox and Chad Bumphis.

Yahoo sports received the documents from NFL sources and were authenticated through Western Union, bank statements, airplane receipts and other financial sources.

To date, the NCAA has not levied any penalties against these schools for the illegal agent contact.

The NCAA soon investigated Tennessee and MSU for other violations that resulted in probation through the 2015 seasons but Alabama seems to have been overlooked.

Image by Chris Graythen - Getty Images

The Future of Ole Miss and Hugh Freeze

Ole Miss football is a labor of love for so many of its fans. Not many of us choose to be fans of Ole Miss it is more like an inheritance.  We love the school because we are all deeply invested in Ole Miss both financially and emotionally.

Article originally printed in Rebel Nation Magazine

This is not an uncommon situation in the SEC. This deep rooted love for your home state and school is what makes this conference the best in college football.  We all care a great deal about our college football and it matters to us.

So, I won’t tell you to calm the hell down and just enjoy a five win season. I won’t tell you to let Freeze and Ross Bjork do their jobs and stop freaking out on social media.  I won’t tell you this because you, as fans, are the program.

Without you, there is no program. Coaches will come and go, even big money boosters will come and go.  What lasts are the season ticket holders and the tailgaters.  The folks that show up on Thanksgiving, in the rain, in 35 degree weather.  You guys are the program.

So feel free to write letters and argue and fight with other fans and get it out of your system.

In this article, I will try to address (from my perspective) some of the biggest questions Ole Miss fans have after a disappointing 2016 season.

Why are you not mad as Hell, like me?!

I am not that concerned, not because I know how Freeze’s tenure will work out. I have some insight into the program but I can’t predict what the NCAA will do.  We have all seen they are unpredictable in their rulings and enforcement of their own rules.

I am not concerned because Ole Miss is greater than one coach or athletic director.

Hugh Freeze was hired at Ole Miss in 2012 and promised to lead Ole Miss out of the wilderness. A football coach with only one year of head coaching experience at the Division One level was able to take one of the lowest funded programs in the most difficult college football conference (at one of the lowest points in our history) and he did what he said he would do.

He turned Ole Miss around. He took a team with only 60 scholarship players in 2012 and went to a bowl.  He took this downtrodden program that was decimated by Houston Nutt to the point of collapse and won the Sugar Bowl in just three years.  Something that hasn’t happened around Oxford in 50 years.

Perhaps winning 10 games a year so quickly is not sustainable. Coach Freeze may have outkicked his coverage and that’s ok.  He deserves a down year or even two.

But what has everyone most upset is that 2016 doesn’t feel like a down year. It feels like the end of a cycle.  It doesn’t even feel like we have hit bottom yet.  It’s easy to imagine that 2017 will be even worse with the loss of Chad Kelly and other key contributing seniors.

So I will be fine and will support the Rebs no matter what happens going forward.

What kind of coach do we need after Freeze?

If you are interested in looking for a new coach you have to think about who can be successful at a school like Ole Miss. This is a small school, with a small stadium and little national success.  It will always be a struggle to recruit at Ole Miss against the Alabama and LSU type programs.  You better find a coach that can take less talented kids and beat those top programs.

You need a innovative, exciting, high scoring offense in order to outscore the minor league NFL teams you will play every week. You also need a marketing genius and a motivator that can somehow focus teenagers and keep them out of trouble and in class every day.

The guy that would fit all these criteria is hard to find. Ole Miss has been looking for that coach since 1973 when Johnny Vaught walked off the field for the last time.  The closest thing we have found so far is Hugh Freeze.  He has proven he can win at a high level at Ole Miss.

Can Hugh Freeze survive 2016?

I think that answer will largely be answered by you, the fans with a little input from the NCAA. The NCAA is going on 5 years of looking at the books in Oxford and they have found a few violations like they would anywhere over 5 years.  Over the period in question that basically spans three coaching staffs and two athletic directors, the NCAA found 13 violations against the football program which amounted to monetary benefits of $15,608 total over eight years.

No matter your opinion on NCAA rules violations, $15,608 over 8 years is hilariously minor compared to violations with Albert Means at Alabama, Reggie Bush at USC or Cam Newton at Auburn. But just because Ole Miss didn’t commit egregious rules violations doesn’t mean the NCAA won’t penalize Ole Miss egregiously.  We just won’t know until the NCAA committee meets, makes a ruling and they go through the appeals process (Ole Miss most likely will and should appeal this ridiculous 5 year investigation).

If you as a fan can’t stomach any NCAA bad news then maybe Freeze should go and maybe we should prepare ourselves to be the Vanderbilt of the West. That’s just the reality of college football.

I believe Hugh Freeze can survive and win at Ole Miss going forward. Over the last 4 years comparing the other programs in the SEC west, Ole Miss has averaged 8 total wins and 4 SEC wins per year.  Good enough for 4th in the SEC over that period.  While that is not great it is better than Bielema and Mullen and very close statistically to the top of the SEC.

 

freeze-wilderness-1

Hugh Freeze is competing and holding his own, even with a down year.

Everyone wants their team to be successful losing games is very frustrating, but it’s important to have a little perspective on how Hugh Freeze stacks up against the rest of the league’s coaches, some of which have a lot more resources than Ole Miss.

I don’t know what the future holds but I know that Hugh Freeze is very capable of leading this team. And if it doesn’t work out for Freeze, the current SEC salaries are really nice and will attract a long line of qualified coaches putting Ole Miss in a better position for success than any time in the past.

So, let’s all pull the rope together, because it’s up to us, the fans, if this program sinks or swims.

Ole Miss Football

Ole Miss Football 2016: A preview in the eyes of a realistic fan.

2015 was a year of historical proportions for the rebel football program.

If you would have told fans of the program the rebels went 10-3 (9 being regular season wins),the first time since 2003, the majority of us would have been content with just that.

When you add on a Sugar Bowl win for the first time since 1970 ,it put the icing on the cake.Talk about “Ole So Sweet!”

The addition of quarterback Chad Kelly helped prevent a drop off at the most worrisome position in spring 2015.

Not only did he prevent a drop off, he put on a clinic on how to play the position throwing for 4,042 yards (3rd in SEC history).Here is just a little taste of what was a great 2015 season for Chad.

Kelly will be an impact player once again in 2016. The Rebels will go as far as their QB takes them.

Its true that the Rebels are a true contender currently  and look to be a contender year in and year out.

However, the difference between a contender and achieving the ultimate goals of a prominent program rely heavily on quarterbacks.(Except for you Ala freaking Bama, How do guys keep this up?!)

Having the best quarterback in the SEC certainly puts Ole Miss near the top but is it truly enough?

Are the Rebels deep enough in the trenches to win 10 or 11 games in 2016?

In this preview, we will look at the schedule and how they shape up against their SEC foes.  Shall we begin?

Projections

September:

             Sept 5 vs Florida State W 23-20

    Sept 10 vs Wofford W 48-10

Sept 17 vs Alabama L 35-31

Sept 24 vs Georgia W 28-14

Points of Intrigue

The Landshark defense will have their hands full with arguably the nations best running back when they play Florida State September 5th.

Dalvin Cook will be a force to reckon with. For those of you who havent seen him, here you go. Dalvin Cook is a beast.However, Florida State will start  redshirt freshman Deondre Francois at quarterback to start the season.

In opening games at premier neutral sites, quarterback play can heavily impact the performance of your team. Nothing against Francois,but  look for Kelly to be more in tune September 5th.

Alabama is Alabama and will be the most prominent team in the Southeast until Saban hangs his hat up. I give the Rebels a loss,but Ole Miss could very well be 3-0 after the bout with the Tide.

The month of September is almost impossible to predict for this Rebel team.  4-0 or 2-2? I say 3-1.

October:

          Oct. 1 vs Memphis     W 35-14

           Oct. 15 at Arkansas W 30-21

Oct. 22 at LSU    L 17-10

       Oct. 29 vs Auburn W 24-3

Points of Intrigue

The true depth and strength of the offensive line will come into play during the month of October.

Without Fahn Cooper and Laremy Tunsil, the Rebels will have two new starting tackles which at the moment have not been announced. (Expect Alex Givens and Greg Little to be in the mix)

The young offensive line will be battle tested against two stout defenses in difficult atmospheres two consecutive weeks in October: against the  Arkansas Razorbacks and the LSU Tigers.

A drop off in talent for the Razorbacks will hope Ole Miss win in Fayetteville, but the Rebels will not be as lucky come Oct. 22.

Behind the load of Leonard Fournette, LSU is a formidable opponent.  LSU  will have the advantage squeaking out a nail biter by 7 in Death Valley. In order for that to happen, Brandon Harris must play at least serviceable. Can he do it? we will have to find out and see.

For the sake of predictions, the rebels go 3-1 for the second consecutive month at 6-2 going into November.

November:

             Nov 5 vs Georgia Southern W 24-16

Nov. 12 at Texas A/M  L 38-28

Nov. 19 at Vanderbilt W 20-6

                Nov. 26 vs Mississippi State W  45-10

Points of Interest

The Rebels lose at Texas A/M vs arguably the most underrated quarterback starting in the Sec this year.

Trevor Knight, the former Oklahoma Quarterback, will put up big numbers in Aggie land this year potentially.

The talent gap between Ole Miss and Mississippi State is exposed and the rebels beat the bulldogs convincingly,45-10.

9-3 5-3 Citrus Bowl appearance

 

Closing Thoughts

The rebels are continuing to make significant strides in the College football spectrum.

Ole Miss arguably has a top 3 quarterback in Kelly.However that does not mean Ole Miss is without flaws as stated previously.

With question marks on both the offensive line and at linebacker, expect a few hiccups along the way.

One position of little concern is wide receiver, although the departure of Laquon Treadwell will definitely be felt.(Heres a highlight reel of Treadwell if you forgot just how impactful he was.)

Ole Miss returns Damore’ea Stringfellow and Quincy Adeboyjo as the premier targets with 36 and 38 receptions in 2015. Expect to be wowed with the addition of three highly recruited freshmen who will push to see the field quickly.(AJ Brown, Tre Nixon, D K Metcalf)

On the defensive side of the ball, Ole Miss will look to continue their dominance on the defensive line with the return of key contributors.

Issac Gross, the senior from South Panola looks to anchor the inside of the line. Fadol Brown and Marquis Haynes will continue to provide stability and consistency at Defensive End.The defensive line will continue its dominance of 2015.

At linebacker, the rebels look to rely on graduate transfer Rommel  Mageo. Mageo is a former Oregon State Beaver, and brings with him experience this linebacker core is lacking. Mageo had 87 tackles in 2015, leading the beavers defense in the stat.

Realistically the Hugh Freeze led rebels are likely to fall anywhere from 8-4 to 10-2 give or a take a game.

This team will rely heavily on Kelly’s leadership and who knows, we may be playing for a title in November!

Agree? Disagree? let me know on twitter @RebelBramlett

Hotty Toddy and Go Rebels!

 

 

Sean Gardner - Getty Images

Can Ole Miss Football Dominate Mississippi?

(Article originally printed in Rebel Nation Magazine – July/August 2016 edition  – www.rebelnationmagazine.com)

Walter Payton, Brett Favre and Jerry Rice are just a few of the many amazing athletes to come from Mississippi that did not play their college ball at Ole Miss. There are plenty of iconic athletes that did wear the red and blue but it is safe to say, not everyone can play in Oxford.  With the many different college options for high school athletes in this state, what will it take for Ole Miss to be the first option in Mississippi?  Let me offer it could happen in less than ten years.

Most of the SEC states are dominated by one major university.  LSU, Georgia, Arkansas, even Tennessee essentially dominates the state in football as Vanderbilt doesn’t pose too big of a threat.

Alabama can support two SEC teams with their larger population base and the long-term success of Auburn and Alabama, but Mississippi is the odd man out in the SEC equation.  A state with less than 3 million residents would be one of the smaller in the SEC to support one SEC school, but we have to support two.  It makes the margins razor thin when competing in the conference.

2016 marks the 50th anniversary of Tulane’s ill-advised decision to leave the SEC, fully placing LSU as the premier University in Louisiana.  Tulane was arguably at least as good as LSU when the SEC began in the 1930’s culminating with an SEC conference championship in 1949, but Paul Dietzel and LSU’s success in the 50’s along with Tulane’s southern ivy league aspirations led to Tulane leaving the SEC.

It was a bad idea, but no one could conceive of the money the SEC would garner 50 years later.  In fact several schools left the SEC with hopes of greener pastures.  Georgia Tech left the SEC in protest of Bear Bryant’s Alabama squad and their brutal rivalry.

However, the biggest factors in New Orleans and Atlanta were the emergence of the NFL which siphoned off the fan base’s and regulated Tulane and Georgia Tech to the back seat.

Today we have another paradigm shift taking place in college athletics which has already shaken up the conferences and promises to do so in the future: CFB playoffs and television rights contracts.

ESPN and its competitors are writing huge checks to conferences for the rights to carry games and secure the advertising blocks of air time.  All major conferences are getting into the game but the SEC is garnering the top dollar and in order to continue to be the top dog will have to add (or potentially subtract) conference teams.

The SEC is now in a unique position to re-write the college landscape. If and when they choose to expand to 16 or possibly 24 teams, it will be an offer most teams would be smart to accept.

The most recent expansions saw the SEC venture into the larger television markets of Houston and Saint Louis. The driving force in the next round could be based on strictly match ups.

I know there is already a Florida team in the SEC, and I understand there are a lot of tv sets in the Washington DC area, but what would fans rather watch? The Gators blow out Virginia Tech or a knock down drag out game versus Florida State?  If the SEC wants to continue to be the premier national conference they must have the premier teams with national appeal.

Texas has shown they cannot survive on their own as the Big 12 and the Longhorn network are dying a slow death. They should be begging to get into the SEC and play nice.  Oklahoma’s AD and president should already be fired for not jumping into the SEC when Texas A&M made the smart move.

Florida State and Miami have to be mighty jealous of the checks Ole Miss and State are cashing at the end of the year.

super sec graphic 2

The next round of TV contracts will end in 2023-2024 and you should expect every team in the nation to be lobbying to be a part of a potential SEC super conference. Teams like Vanderbilt, Kentucky and MSU haven’t won a SEC football title since Kentucky last won in 1950.

If Ole Miss wants a chance to knock out MSU for good, this is their chance.

Hugh Freeze has established Ole Miss as a national team in recruiting and it is hard to say that he would take 20 kids a year from Mississippi even if he could. Unfortunately with all the talent in MS we do suffer with getting our kids eligible academically.

If you have a chance to sign the top wide receiver in Texas or the top wide receiver in Mississippi which one do you chase as a head coach? Dominating recruiting in Mississippi is a feather in the cap but honestly it may not win you the most games.

MSU has signed 20 more MS players than Ole Miss over the last four years. Both teams have won 34 games in the last four years but Ole Miss is 3-1 over State head to head.  MSU reached a top six bowl game in 2014’s Orange bowl but comparatively, Ole Miss has reached two top six bowl games.

If Ole Miss wants to truly dominate the home state, they just need to continue on their current path. Ole Miss is a top 10-15 team for 2016 while MSU is entering a re-building period with the graduation of Dak Prescott.  Ole Miss has some of the best facilities in the SEC and is one of the top national recruiters that will keep them on top.

By winning consistently, Ole Miss will be in the best position to survive the next round of expansion and possibly see MSU moved to a lower tier.

Photos via Ole Miss Media Relations

Band of Brothers: Ole Miss’ Family Legacy

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 marcus johnson

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.

fourcades

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.

Todd Wade, Romaro Miller, Belton Johnson and Justin Wade

Todd Wade, Romaro Miller, Belton Johnson and Justin Wade

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.”