Presser at 2 today. I'll have updates on Twitter and notes on the blog to follow.
I've resisted the blog countdowns of summer mainly because of the way vacation works for me. I don't use it during the school year, so when summer comes I have about seven weeks to take three.
Vacation is done, and football is upon us, now 29 days away.
With that, I give you the top 28 memories of 20 years as a football beat writer.
The years do not run in succession. There's a gap from 1993-19995 when I moved to Tupelo and had other assignments before picking up the Mississippi State beat in the fall of 1996.
This will be less a ranking, more an acknowledgement of significant events on and off the field, people and places at three different schools through the past 20 years. The common thread will be football. The majority of those years have been at Ole Miss. Entering my 11th season with the Rebels, I've covered them almost twice as much as I covered MSU, almost three times as much as I covered Southern Miss during The Meridian Star days.
So here we go, 29 days till kickoff …
I'm often asked about biggest games, best atmospheres, things of that nature. Big is good, but it's not always best. For me, people make the experience … for better or worse.
I have tried to keep up with some of the assistant coaches I've worked with through the years, and I'm wondering where Chuck Driesbach is. I notice he was let go at Rice at the end of last season. He had been defensive coordinator there, and the numbers weren't good.
He was hired at Ole Miss by David Cutcliffe in 2002 primarily to improve run defense, which he did. In fact, the 2003 team known for offense during Eli Manning's senior year, also played pretty good on defense, giving up just 102 yards a game on the ground that year.
Anyway, Chuck was a talker, always friendly. It was during his second year there that I had an appointment for an interview with one of his defensive players. Media relations had instructed me to meet the guy at the field house at 1:30.
I was there at 1:30, and the player was not. I did not view that as a crime against humanity. I viewed it as a college student with a lot of things on his mind, a class, a girl to talk to on the walk back, any number of things. I have learned through the years to thrive during delay. I take work with me. So I pulled out my laptap, sat on the floor with my back to the wall and began working. I was near the entrance to the weight room, right by the glass door through which most people – and hopefully the player soon – would enter.
Chuck entered first. We talked a bit, and he asked me why I was sitting on the floor working. I told him who I was waiting for.
The player then had the misfortune of walking in at that moment. Chuck wore him out.
Gave him an intense, high-volume speech on the importance of punctuality and respect for others. He finished it with, “You made this man wait.”
I did not consider the player's tardiness a big deal. Practice was looming, and I knew he'd walk through the door soon. But Chuck considered it a big deal in his responsibility of helping a young man mature.
Just as I had been able to adapt and overcome and get some work done, the player overcame the verbal abuse, and we had a good interview.