Johnson, Brown transcripts

There was a lot of passion coming C.J. Johnson and Chief Brown yesterday, two fifth-year seniors who were part of Houston Nutt’s final season as coach when the Rebels went 2-10 in 2011. Everything could fit inside a story, so here is what they had to say:


(What do you remember about that 2-10 season your true freshman year?)

“A lot of the things I remember about it, as a football player when you’re in games like that, it’s kind of hard week in and week out to try to have the mindset of going in and winning the game, and going out and playing hard and really competing with yourself. It made me find out who I was early in college. Just going out there and playing games like that. Shoot, in my freshman year, that was the most games I’d lost in my whole career playing football. That was tough for me. It was a gut-punch.”

(What do you remember about the last three games after it was announced that Houston Nutt would not return?)

“It was awful. Those last three games were like torture almost. I have a great relationship with a lot of those coaches, and I didn’t think I’d be here, to be honest with you. I didn’t think I’d be here at Ole Miss.”

(How close were you to transferring after your freshman season?)

“I was real close, probably about 70-30 until I talked to coach Nutt. Coach Nutt, he was like ‘Just go through the spring. They’re going to bring in somebody really good. See how you like it. If you don’t like it in the spring, call me back and we’ll try to get you somewhere.’ I didn’t want to do that.”

(When did you completely buy in?)

“I actually bought into everything coach Freeze was telling us. It was a point midway through spring practice where I knew we could be really good at this. We just stuck with it, and everybody just stayed so committed to him and everything he was trying to do. That’s why we’re here.

“I would say midway through the spring. The way everybody was competing in practice was something I hadn’t seen throughout the first fall there. It kind of gave you hope that we could be better. There were a lot of leaders on the team and guys like that who were trying to make us stay. That helped out a whole lot.”



(What do you remember about the three games after it was announced that Nutt would not return as coach?)

“It was rough. It was a pretty rough time. We had players not wanting to go to practice, not wanting to come work out at all. I remember watching the Egg Bowl in disbelief of our players. It was mind-blowing. It was a hard time. I remember all of us freshmen gathering in our dorm room talking about transferring that spring. We didn’t want to be here. Nobody knew who coach Freeze was. I don’t remember who said just give him a chance and he could change our life. (He’s pretty sure it was Collins Moore who stood up and said give Freeze a chance.) I looked at Donte (Moncrief), and Donte said he was going to Oklahoma State. Denzel (Nkemdiche) said he was going to Georgia or Florida. Everybody was ready to leave. Some guys did leave. Tobias (Singleton) went to Jackson State.”

(When did most people really buy in?)

“It took that first season. You go from winning two games to winning six. They predicted us to win two games again.”

(How did coach Freeze get you guys to buy in?)

“He’s just one of those type of guys. He’s a really persuasive guy. He’s a guy who has a nice way with words. He’s very encouraging and very motivational. He won our hearts and minds. You just bought into what he said because he’s that type of impactful person to these kids out here. You can tell because if you can take any team that wins two games a year to nine, it’s pretty special. People started believing, and then we started getting the recruits. We’ve got depth. We can play in longer games, we can compete. You look at these last two seasons, some of the games we lost were because of one play, two plays. We can compete with the best of the best of them now. We came from not being able to beat Jacksonville State to beating Alabama now, LSU and those other guys. It’s pretty special.”

(Comments on change in attitude in locker room)

“We went through the spring, and we had this drill called Fourth Quarters. They were these certain amount of drills you had to do four times. We just competed, and people kept competing. I was like ‘Man, this is pretty cool competing like this.’ And we’d just pick each other up and encourage the guys. People started playing out of love for each other and being respectful. Being on time for workouts, going to class and being accountable, he brought all of those things to the program. Accountability and just showing up on time, loving each other. When I was first down here with coach Nutt, nobody really cared about each other. Everybody was out for themselves, individual stats. People were focused on going to the NFL. I remember walking through the locker room and one player said ‘I don’t know about y’all, but I’m here to get this money.’ He said that when I was a freshman, and I was like ‘Wow.’ Now you’ve got players who really love and care about who you are. We spend a lot of team bonding time. We hang out with each other outside of football all the time. We play around on the bus all the time. We’re just a big family now, and when we step out on that field, we’re playing for each other out of love. When you’ve got that out on the field, it’s hard to beat a team like that.”


Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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