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Vanderford: Falling Heart First into Rebel Nation

A whole bunch of excitement going on for Rachel.

I’ve spent the past 19 years of my life swearing up and down that I would never like football. I never understood what was so special about a bunch of guys running around with a ball, holding onto it like it was the last pair of $20 Steve Madden boots on Black Friday.
In high school, football games meant hanging out with all of my friends and eating overpriced nachos. I figured my college experience wouldn’t be much different.
Last year, as a freshman, I heard everyone else celebrating about buying their season passes at student price, so I hopped on the bandwagon and got one for myself. I remember thinking, “Wow! This is a good deal. People often pay more than this for a ticket to just one game.”
Sadly, I didn’t get my money’s worth.
The football skeptic is transformed.

The only football game I attended the entire season was the first home game against Southeast Missouri. I wanted to believe that my school spirit was finally catching up to me, but the real reason I went was because of the obligatory Rebel Run required by my EDHE 105 course. When I finished the run, I didn’t even have to use my student ID to get into the game. Also, there were no empty seats in the student section. I stayed until halftime and decided that I didn’t want to do that again.
This year, I thought about not even wasting my money on a season pass, but since all of my friends go to the games, I didn’t want to be left out. I pitched the money to give Ole Miss football one more try.
I went to the first two home games against the Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns and the Memphis Tigers. I wasn’t dedicated enough to fight the cold weather during the first game. So, once again, I gathered my things after half time and went home. I stayed for the entirety of the Memphis game, however. I clapped, even cheered a little, and had a good time. But I still wasn’t sold.
When the time came for the battle against the Crimson Tide, I was done. To me, it was just another football game. I thought I’d had my fill. I promised a friend my ticket and intended on spending the weekend in bed, catching glimpses of the game on television just to note the score.
When the buzz about ESPN College Game Day got around, the whole school went into commotion. Everyone was pumped about the game. It was all anyone could talk about. There was even word that Katy Perry would be making an appearance. I couldn’t help but feel just a little heartbroken that I couldn’t go, but I tried to shake it off. It was just a football game, after all.
When College GameDay arrived, the university was a madhouse. There were people everywhere. Friday morning, walking to my first class, I got to see the rush as they let the mob of fans run into the Grove and claim their spot for Saturday’s tailgating.
By the end of the day, I was so overcome with the excitement around me that I asked my friend if I could keep my ticket for the game.
On Saturday, I was too concerned about grabbing Chick-Fil-A at the last minute to get a seat in the stadium. After searching long and hard for a spot in the student section that wasn’t red-and-blue-clad, I, of course, had to stand.
Good friends and a big game go hand in hand.

I think I had a pretty sweet deal, though. I could see the whole field, without anyone standing too close or showering me with beer. I was close enough to the Rebel fans to high-five strangers when we did something good and just close enough to Bama fans to see the look on their faces when we did it.
Little did I know, when my friends and I stepped foot inside the stadium that day would we be chased out by security like a bunch of fanatics. Somewhere between screaming for my school’s team and rushing the field after our big win, I fell in love — just maybe not with football.
I fell in love with the experience. It was incredible to be a part of something so big and important, a mark in Ole Miss history. Spending time with my friends and making new ones, all because we wanted the same victory, was unlike anything I’ve ever done. The fun I had at the game is a memory that I will never forget.
So maybe my season pass won’t be wasted this year because now I want to be — and will be — out there cheering on the Rebels with everyone else.
Rachel Vanderford is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at rmvander@go.olemiss.edu.

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