Note from Steve Vassallo: HottyToddy.com contributor: Warner Alford is a “walking encyclopedia” of Ole Miss history. Once a young man who had his sights on a possible football career at LSU, Warner chose the Rebels instead and has never looked back. What he has accomplished in his life is an inspiration for all students wishing to excel. In addition to his success, Warner Alford is the consummate gentleman and one of the greatest ambassadors Ole Miss has ever known. HottyToddy.com had the pleasure to visit with him at The Inn at Ole Miss, a facility he made possible!
HottyToddy.com — Warner, tell us about your high school football career at McComb.
Warner Alford — To begin with McComb is approximately 250 miles south of Oxford, located in Pike County. It is only 20 miles from the Louisiana line and about 100 miles from Baton Rouge. New Orleans is the closest major city. I played center and linebacker in high school. In that era everyone played both ways. My high school number was No. 10. I started as a quarterback, but did not have the ability for that position in college. I was actually leaning to LSU until Tom Swayze started recruiting me.
HottyToddy.com — Were there other future football players for Ole Miss at McComb?
Warner Alford — Louis Guy ( famous Ole Miss running back ); Jerry Stone, C/LB; and Harry Case, DE/TE all played at McComb. Also, Bobby Robinson and Otho Crawford.
HottyToddy.com — Can you tell us a little about your recruiting experience?
Warner Alford — Paul Dietzel was the head coach at LSU whereas John Vaught was at Ole Miss. I had never been to Oxford because of the distance. We drove to Jackson occasionally, but never north of there. Coach Dietzel was in his first year as head coach, a man in his early 30’s. Coach Vaught was in his eighth year at Ole Miss and probably about 10 years older than Coach Dietzel. Both were outstanding men. My dad and I first drove to Baton Rouge on a Sunday and met with Coach Dietzel. They had a recruiter by the name of Carl Maddox. What I liked about Paul Dietzel was his personality and positive attitude. Coach Dietzel was also a center/linebacker in his playing days. Prior to this recruiting trip the first college football game I ever saw was in Baton Rouge in the early 50’s. My recruiting experience to Oxford was quite different. Let me also say that I was not a highly recruited player in high school. My official visit to Ole Miss occurred in November, 1955 during the Thanksgiving holiday. We played our rival, Brookhaven, on Thursday and then departed for Oxford the next day. Ole Miss was preparing to play Mississippi State in Starkville on Saturday. A friend of mine, Gerald Watts, made the trip with me. The campus was entirely empty except for the team and coaching staff. The visit went quite well and we continued on to Starkville to see the game which Ole Miss won. Following the game Coach Vaught summoned me onto the field and told me…”I am counting on you being a Rebel.” I never forgot this statement. The first Saturday in December I actually signed my letter of intent.
HottyToddy.com — We are going to “throw” several names at you, asking that you give us your initial impression of these great players. Here we go: Eagle Day; Archie Manning; Glynn Griffing; Jake Gibbs; Billy Brewer; Doug Elmore; Hap Farber.
Warner Alford — Eagle Day…Believed he could do anything. He was from Columbia, Miss. Archie Manning…Archie is a legend unequaled in Ole Miss sports; a Rebel who has always paid back in total support of the program. Glynn Griffing…A great quarterback and when he got his turn, showed his ability also with the New York Giants. Jake Gibbs…The highest honor I ever achieved was being the co-captain with Jake on the 1960 national championship team. We have been great friends for a lifetime and also neighbors. He’s just a great human being. Billy Brewer…A great football coach! Doug Elmore…A truly outstanding leader and quarterback. I don’t recall anyone who was more respected by his teammates. He grew up in Reform, Alabama. Hap Farber…A really good football player from Jackson (Murrah High School).
HottyToddy.com — Tell us about your family.
Warner Alford — My dad, John (JW) Warner, Sr. went to Millsaps and my mother had attended Ole Miss as a freshman. My mother was originally from Louisiana. My father was in the retail business (Dennam Alford Company) with the family business that had been around since 1900. I have two sisters, Judy and Susan, and a brother, Charles. I met my wife, Kay, when I arrived at Ole Miss as a student in September, 1955. She was the daughter of Coach Swayze. There was an unwritten rule that we were not suppose to date the daughters of coaches, however, she was so beautiful, I could not resist. I discussed this with my roommate, Robert Khayat, who asked that I proceed with caution. We were married in 1961 to this day. Had I met her earlier, my recruiting holdout would have ended immediately. We have three children…Swayze (wife Melinda); John (wife Michelle); Phyllis (husband Darrell Daniels) and seven grandchildren (all living in Oxford)…Lilli and Grace Alford; Grant, Clayton and John Swayze Daniels; John Warner IV; and Jude Alford.
HottyToddy.com — Share with us your most cherished memory of Coach Vaught.
Warner Alford — When Coach Vaught recommended me to succeed him as AD. Also, following the famous game in which Billy Cannon ran back a punt to defeat us in Baton Rouge, Coach Vaught told the team that night in the locker room that we would get these guys again in the Sugar Bowl which we did winning 21-0. How he knew this at that time I will never know as we still had Tennessee and Mississippi State remaining to play.
HottyToddy.com — How did Coach Vaught end up at Ole Miss?
Warner Alford — Harold “Red” Drew was the head coach who brought Coach Vaught with him as his line coach. Coach Vaught was an All-American guard at TCU. When Red was asked to coach at Alabama (where he was from), Coach Vaught took over as the Ole Miss head coach and the rest is history. His first year as Head Coach was 1947.
HottyToddy.com — You had quite a successful career as Ole Miss AD and Director of the Alumni Association.
Warner Alford — I was AD for 16 years and Director of the Alumni Association for four.
HottyToddy.com — What is the most challenging aspect of being AD?
Warner Alford — Dealing with the budget, especially in a conference as strong as ours. Keeping up with everyone else is demanding while controlling expenses. The sharing of bowl revenues helped the smaller schools considerably.
HottyToddy.com — The focus here this week is Alabama. Your thoughts.
Warner Alford — In my playing days at Ole Miss, we neither faced Alabama nor Auburn. This game is large. I would place it in the perspective of one of the LSU games in the late 50’s.
HottyToddy.com — What was your greatest thrill as a player?
Warner Alford — There were many. In 1959, we only had 21 points scored against us for the entire season. My senior year following our bowl game we were voted national champions!
HottyToddy.com — If my memory is correct, wasn’t it because of your fundraising success this beautiful hotel (The Inn at Ole Miss) is here?
Warner Alford — Tim Walsh and I raised the necessary funding for the hotel by asking individuals to sponsor a room. It’s a pretty impressive place and has been great for the university and all the conferences held here.
HottyToddy.com — Warner, in closing, I have never met an individual who is as personable as you. Everyone you come in contact with feels special because of the way you are. Is this a natural gift or something you worked to fine tune during your lifetime?
Warner Alford—Whatever I am is a gift from The Lord.
We asked Warner to respond to certain names above and give his initial, immediate reaction. Turning the page, when I hear the name Warner Alford mentioned, what comes to mind is a gentleman of the highest magnitude and a lifelong blessing to Ole Miss. And thank goodness he came here opposed to LSU!
Warner Alford is Ultimate Rebel, Ole Miss Leader
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