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Ole Miss Football Legend Billy Ray Adams Passes Away

Ole Miss has lost a legendary member of its football history with the death of Billy Ray Adams, 84, who passed away June 1, 2023.

Adams distinguished himself as a fullback on three of legendary coach Johnny Vaught’s best Ole Miss teams from 1959 to 1961. Adams, who also played left corner on defense, was a three-year letterman at Ole Miss and earned first-team All-America and All-SEC honors during his 1961 senior season.

As a senior, Adams led Ole Miss in rushing yardage and scoring. He finished second in Southeastern Conference rushing and led in total touchdowns with 10, nine rushing touchdowns and one pass interception returned for a touchdown. Adams averaged 5.8 yards per rush during his career as he gained 1,009 net yards on 174 carries. As a senior, he averaged 6.3 yards per carry with 575 yards on 91 carries.

During his three varsity seasons, the Rebels had a record of 29-3-1. In 1959, Ole Miss was 10-1 with a win over LSU in the Sugar Bowl. In 1960, the Rebels were SEC champions and finished 10-0-1, including a 14-6 win over the Rice Owls. After the 1959 and 1960 seasons, Ole Miss was named national champions by various rating systems. The 1960 team was awarded the Grantland Rice trophy for being named National Champions by the Football Writers Association of America. The Rebels were 9-2 in 1961 and played Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Adams was a member of the 1959 SEC Team of the Decade.

Adams received an invitation to the 1962 Senior Bowl and to the Coaches All-American Bowl. However, his career came to a sudden end two nights following a 37-7 regular season finale win over Mississippi State when he was injured in an automobile accident after attending a Jackson Touchdown Club meeting where he had received the Most Valuable Player award. He was unable to play for the Rebels in the Cotton Bowl or in the Senior Bowl and the Coaches All-American Game.

Adams was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the third round of the 1962 National Football League draft. He was also drafted by the American Football League’s Houston Oilers, but with injuries suffered in the auto accident, he was unable to continue his football career after college.

A native of Columbus, Miss., Adams graduated from Lee High School in 1958. He graduated from Ole Miss in 1962, where he was elected to the Associated Student Body Hall of Fame. Adams was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Ole Miss Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990. In 2003, he was selected a Southeastern Conference Legend, representing Ole Miss at the SEC Football Championship game in Atlanta.

Retired from the Barksdale Bonding and Insurance, Inc., in Jackson, Adams served as president of the Ole Miss M-Club Alumni Chapter and the Jackson Academy Athletic Booster Club. 

Funeral arrangements are still pending.

Courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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