The Game That Put Ole Miss on the Map

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Prior to the Alabama game last year, I wrote a story about my grandfather’s passion for Ole Miss and how it influenced me at a young age. My favorite memories of him revolve around a special Saturday morning ritual that occurred for every Rebel home game. During our two-hour road trip from the small town of Noxapater, MS to Oxford, MS, “Grandaddy” taught me the history of Ole Miss football. His stories carried me back to a place where Johnny Vaught won six SEC titles and three National Championships. I heard names like Jake Gibbs, Charlie Conerly, Kayo Dottley, and of course, Archie Manning. The radio was never turned on, however, his stories were music to my ears.

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The one story that is permanently etched in my memory involves the 1952 Ole Miss vs. Maryland game. The Terrapins arrived in Oxford as the #3 team in the country and after going undefeated the prior season, the heavy favorite. In fact, Maryland had a 22-game winning streak that dated back to 1950. With the odds stacked against them, the Rebels upset the Terrapins, 21-14, behind the magnificent play of quarterback Jimmy “King” Lear.

My grandfather passed away on the Friday prior to the start of the 2011 season. The day before he died, my family gathered around him in the hospital room and flipped on the television. They decided to watch the Thursday night season opener for Mississippi State against Memphis. Despite barely being able to speak, Grandaddy demanded that they change the channel. He refused to spend his last days on earth watching the Bulldogs. While laying on his death bed, he told my Dad that he wanted to go watch Ole Miss play in Oxford. He was a true Rebel to the core.

Since that September, he stays on my mind during football season. As the excitement was building for this weekend, I followed every possible media outlet to get different angles for the game. I stumbled across something that caught my eye:

As soon as I read that tweet, I knew that it was Grandaddy’s way of telling me that the Rebels would win on Saturday. When Jaylen Walton made the catch in the corner of the south end zone, tears rolled down my face. I knew that this was the game that I will tell my grandchildren “put Ole Miss on the map.”