Thursday, July 7, 2022

Watching a Legend: How One Ole Miss Student Grew With Hugh Freeze

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In 2012, I got up at 6 a.m. to watch Robert Nkemdiche sign with Ole Miss on National Signing Day.

I was a senior in high school and eager to see Hugh Freeze’s first recruiting class, after he assumed the position as head football coach in December 2011. I was set to attend Ole Miss in the fall. Three years later, I am a junior at Ole Miss and Hugh Freeze has grown the football program, and with it Ole Miss and Oxford too.

Supporting the Rebels at a young age
Supporting the Rebels at a young age

I believed in Ole Miss early on. I must add that I was mocked by my peers for wanting to go to Ole Miss. It was the “fallback” school, according to my high school classmates. Mississippi was foreign to them, and they couldn’t imagine why I would ever step foot into a state that wasn’t Texas. Despite what my classmates thought, I stood by Ole Miss and fiercely defended it. I believed the Rebels had the potential to become the team they are today, and so did Freeze.

Freeze often talks about how we have gone to the “elite status” over the years, and the Ole Miss Class of 2017 has witnessed the growth of this team, city and school first hand. Enrollment for fall 2015 was an all-time high for Ole Miss with 20,112 students with only 19,431 my freshman year (2013), according to UM’s Office of Institutional Research, Effectiveness and Planning. Our class has seen the campus grow substantially since our freshman year.

As Freeze perfectly stated yesterday, “There are cranes everywhere all the time.” The recruiting class Freeze gained yesterday is a testament to this growth.  

Pickett (left) at a game freshman year
Pickett (left) at a game freshman year

Chapter One

Freshman year was Chapter One for me and the Ole Miss Rebels. Fans, faculty and alumni entered the season with high exceptions of what our first season with Freeze would bring. I traveled back to Texas to watch the Rebels defeat the Longhorns- in front of the people who once mocked my decision to attend Ole Miss. However, I remind you, we did not score against the Tide in Tuscaloosa and suffered a last minute loss in Death Valley to LSU. At the season’s end, Ole Miss did not bring the Egg Bowl trophy to Oxford after losing the game in overtime.

Chapter Two

Sophomore year was Chapter Two. The year we stormed the field in the epic 23-17 victory against the Tide, and Ole Miss beat Texas A&M in Aggieland. The hype fizzled after we suffered heartbreaking loses against LSU and Auburn. Another disheartening 30-0 loss in Fayetteville led us into the Egg Bowl. Rebels’ home advantage brought the Egg Bowl trophy back to Oxford and Bo Wallace ended his career at Ole Miss on a higher note.

With mother Harriet Riley at Texas A&M game Oct. 24, 2015
With mother Harriet Riley at Texas A&M game October 24, 2015

Chapter Three

Junior year was Chapter Three — the year we became a force to be reckoned with. Chad Kelly became the momentum we desperately needed. We watched the Rebels beat Alabama back-to-back and beat LSU, too. Ole Miss traveled to Starkville and won the Egg Bowl again. And, by damn, we celebrated New Years in the Big Easy at the 2016 Allstate Sugar Bowl, defeating Oklahoma State by 28 points, when predicted to win by seven. 

Chapter Four

The 2016 season will be Chapter Four — for my class and the Ole Miss Rebels. It will be my final chapter, but it is just the beginning for the football program. In his press conference yesterday on Feb. 3, Freeze reflected on this four-year leap coining Ole Miss a “national brand.” I watched that press conference in 2013 from my TV screen- four years later, I was sitting at the actual press conference. I have watched, along with the rest of my Ole Miss classmates, this football program become a national brand and something to be proud of daily. We have defeated all odds and are beginning new chapters. Are you ready?


Hannah Pickett is a student intern for hottytoddy.com. She can be reached at hannah.pickett@me.com.

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