The University of Mississippi can brag about having students from afar, but the university has plenty of praise for Johan Backström, a superstar student-athlete hailing from Sweden.
Backström chose to come to United States because he wanted to play tennis at a highly competitive level while earning a university degree. “That opportunity doesn’t exist (in Sweden),” Backström said, “so by going to the U.S. enabled me to pursue two dreams of mine, tennis and higher level education.”
He chose Ole Miss for its “outstanding and historic” tennis program. He said, “I knew I would play at the highest national collegiate level. In addition, the university seemed really good and my official visit revealed the beautiful campus and intriguing college town atmosphere which really appealed to me.”
The biggest cultural differences between U.S. and Sweden, apart from the language barrier, to him were the cuisine that he has mixed feelings about. He isn’t a fan of fried chicken but he enjoyed seafood and barbecue that he said isn’t seen as much in Sweden. Backström said, “The Southern hospitality is amazing and something that made me feel like home early on.”
Backström worked hard and played hard. Along with earning his double degrees in accountancy and business administration he received the Taylor Medal and was initiated in Phi Kappa Phi, an honors society. His academic work was even recognized in sports when he was named Academic All-American.
He said, “Both programs were really good, but I must say the accountancy program was exceptional. I learned so much and through the program I was able to get the job I just have accepted in New York city as a Deal Advisory Consultant for KPMG. I am very excited about the opportunity.”
His favorite memory of Ole Miss is when he clinched the final match to go to NCAA Sweet Sixteen and his teammates immediately rewarded him with an ice bucket shower. “After putting it all out there for x amount of hours, it was great to give back to teammates, coaches, fans and the whole Rebel nation for all that they have given me through the years,” said Backström.
Another great and emotional time for him was his Senior Day when the team pulled through and caused a huge upset against Texas A&M to qualify for NCAA. He said, “That was my coaches’ last homestand after 35 years at the job, so it was a great tribute to do that for him. On top of that, my parents were in town for senior day.”
Twelve family members traveled from Sweden to see him graduate. He said, “I am so incredibly thankful that so many family members took the time and effort to come all over here. I had parents, sister, aunt, uncles, cousins and a grandmother here — ranging in ages from 14 to 80, truly unbelievable.”
He said for most of his family members the travel to U.S. was their first ever. They all had a great time despite the accident with his grandmother where she received quick and thorough care at the Baptist Hospital in Oxford and was in good health to watch him graduate. They toured the campus, watched the NCAA tennis match and enjoyed the Square in both daytime and nighttime. The graduation day for him was “a perfect ending to four perfect years.”
Callie Daniels is a staff writer/reporter for HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.