Brunetti, a transfer from West Virginia who is from Memphis, Tenn., came to Ole Miss in part because of his ailing mother. The NCAA usually requires transfers to sit out one season but can grant a waiver if there is a family hardship. Ole Miss is about 75 miles from Memphis.
Brunetti said he spent Easter weekend in Memphis with his mother, who was injured in a car wreck in 2002 and has suffered declining health ever since. The two discussed the NCAA waiver, and mom's advice was simple — stay positive.
On Monday morning, he received an email from the Ole Miss compliance office requesting he call.
"I was hoping and praying it was good news," Brunetti said. "It was."
Brunetti, a 6-foot-0, 213-pound sophomore, is one of three quarterbacks — along with Randall Mackey and Zack Stoudt — competing for the starting job. He threw for 211 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in the Rebels' spring game on April 16.
Brunetti is the only quarterback on the roster who has played at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, though that experience was brief. He completed 4 of 9 passes for six yards in four games as the Mountaineers' backup in the fall.
Mackey, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound junior, redshirted last season after transferring from East Mississippi Community College. Stoudt, a 6-foot-4, 222-pound junior, arrived on campus in January after transferring from Iowa Western Community College.
The team's most experienced quarterback, junior Nathan Stanley, left the school earlier this month after falling to fourth on the Rebels' depth chart.
Brunetti said the looming NCAA decision was stressful, and might have affected his play during the spring. Now with eligibility in hand, he said there would be "no excuses."
"I can go out free-minded and give my best effort," Brunetti said.
The Rebels are looking for their third starting quarterback in three seasons. Ole Miss suffered through a disastrous 2010 season, with a 4-8 record, including 1-7 mark in the Southeastern Conference.
Coach Houston Nutt has said Mackey has a slight advantage in the three-way race because he's got the most experience with the team's playbook. But Brunetti's performance in the spring game — which included a 90-yard touchdown pass — caught Nutt's attention. He also rushed for 37 yards on seven carries.
Nutt expects the quarterback competition to be "wide open" at the start of preseason camp in August.
"Brunetti started out slow, but boy, he's come on," Nutt said after the spring game. "As you can see, he's a playmaker."