By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
A native Mississippian’s take on the 1962 Ole Miss championship football team will air tonight on ESPN.
As part of the network’s “30 for 30” series “Ghosts of Ole Miss” details the role the Rebels played in the riots and uncertainty that accompanied the forced enrollment of James Meredith, the school’s first black student.
“Ghosts of Ole Miss” airs tonight at 7 on ESPN.
Wright Thompson, a native of Clarksdale, lives in Oxford and writes for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine.
Three years ago he wrote a feature on the 1962 team. The movie is based from that work.
“The amazing thing to me is that everybody knows the story of the riots, though I would argue that nobody really knows,” Thompson said. “We’ve all heard it described as a riot, and a riot doesn’t seem like a very big deal. I’ve seen the footage. There are things there that as a Mississippian who did not live through that time are very hard to watch.”
Ultimately, amid the chaos, Meredith was enrolled.
Through it all, a football team destined for a special season stayed sequestered in a campus dorm not knowing what the next days held, much less the end of the football season.
one perfect season
That Ole Miss football team, however, finished the fall unbeaten and untied, the school’s only perfect season, and won the SEC and national championships.
Achieving through those difficult times created a special bond among the players. The team was honored earlier this season prior to a home game against Texas.
“We’re still close. Going through all that adversity brought us closer together as a team, and helped us care more for each other,” said Glynn Griffing, an All-American quarterback on that team.
The 1962 team won the fifth of six SEC championships claimed by former coach John Vaught.
The bond was strikingly evident to Thompson.
“When you see them now, they know why they went undefeated and other teams didn’t,” Thompson said. “Everyone saw the worst in Mississippi, but those guys, through the way they played and the way they won, could show people the best. To some degree in 1962 – and still – they served to balance out everything else that happened that year.”