[ED: This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011]
Throughout the years, everyone associates themselves with particular players, players they just love to watch play the game. For many, their favorite player distinctions are reserved for incredible, playmaking quarterbacks and halfbacks. Today's topic looks at our favorite Rebel football players of all-time. We've decided to discuss each of our favorite offensive and defensive players.
The offense is all about Dexter, Dexter, and Dexter. I considered Eli Manning, but running is just more exciting than passing to me. So, if I were an old man, maybe I would be extolling the virtues of the dual-threat Archie or Kayo Dottley. But, strictly in terms of trips around the sun, I'm not old. So, I never saw those guys. If Rebels are thinking about recent running backs they are thinking about Deuce or Dexter (with apologies to damn good Rebels Joe Gunn and BenJarvus Green-Ellis). As far as I am concerned, no running back has taken the Rebels as far on his back than Dexter. Without McCluster, it's not hard to believe that the Rebels would have won two, maybe three more games in 2009. He got twenty-something carries in the Auburn game, and I still heard Tiger fans asking, "Why aren't they just feeding it to him?" That's just how unstoppable he was. He saved that season.
As for defense, it's Patrick Willis. I tried. There's no other answer. I remember when he ran around in 2005, leading the SEC in tackles with a cast on one hand. He looked like a damn comic book villain. And he terrorized opponents thusly.
Ghost of Jay Cutler:
On offense, the nod goes to Eli Manning. His football prowess and the aura he brought to the Ole Miss program were what made me a fan to begin with. When he tossed that perfect fade over the shoulder of Plaxico Burress to seal the deal in Super Bowl XLII, I couldn't help but feel like Ole Miss had somehow won that Super Bowl. Seeing Eli hoist the trophy and earn the Super Bowl MVP almost makes up for the 2003 LSU game (which, interestingly enough, ended in the same score of that Super Bowl and was damn near just as dramatic). Almost.
On defense, the only acceptable answer is Patrick Willis. There has not been a more perfect middle linebacker to ever grace a college field in my lifetime. Physically, he is the perfect blend of size, speed, flexibility, and athleticism. His football IQ is off of the charts. His love for the game is matched by few. And, if none of that sells you on P-Willie, I'll have you know that he is a damn fine person to boot.
One Man To Beat:
Deuce McAlister is my offensive pick. He was a player who I couldn't help but watch even when he didn't have the ball in his hands. A strong, fast back who gave 100 percent every game. Plus, any player who fans get to yell their name on every possession adds some lore. DEUUUUUUUUUUUCE.
Defensively, of course it's Patrick Willis- Big, strong, fast and the best linebacker to ever play at Ole Miss. He came up from nothing and anchored some poor defenses at Ole Miss. He played through injuries and led the team even when there was no chances for a bowl game.
Brian Walker's Elbow (apparently didn't get the memo about choosing an offensive AND defensive player):
I love Jason Cook and Dexter McCluster every bit as much as I do Eli Manning. I assume that we will get a lot of Patrick Willis and other super star answers here, but I really thought about who the players were personally. I know Jason and have had several conversations with him, and he is a fantastic person. He was a VERY good fullback and played through injuries and the Orgeron years. At no point did he ever "lose his religion" on the field, and he is a great representation of our university. Now, he is the Fellowship of Christian Athletes guy at Ole Miss. My other favorite Rebel is Dexter McCluster. Dexter had his injuries and fumble problems throughout the years, but his senior season put him into a special place in my heart. After the Tennessee game, I remember watching all of the highlights on sportscenter and being amazed (I was there in person, but I like the highlights on sportscenter). However, I quickly realized that it was not all about his 4 TDs that day. I found his testimony on youtube, and it exploded with view after view after that game. As I continue to realize what kind of person Dex was, I am continually amazed by him.
My favorite offensive player of all time hasn't been named yet. My favorite Rebel offensive player of all time is.... Michael Oher. I know... I know... he didn't touch the ball for us. He didn't score a single touchdown, and he didn't electrify the country for his play on the field. However, he did his job. The pass protection while Oher was at left tackle at Ole Miss was excellent. We didn't realize how well we had it until he was gone. While he struggled at times as an underclassman, Michael Oher was consistently excellent as a senior. He dominated opposing defensive ends, often leaving them on the ground, weeping. He was every bit as talented as he was hyped up to be. Of course, there's the whole oscar-nominated movie and New York Times bestseller thing as well, but I think that too many people use that to overshadow just how great a player he was ON the field.
On defense, this one is a little surprising too. Maybe it's just because I want to be different, but Patrick Willis was not my favorite player. Willis is phenomenal, probably the best linebacker in the NFL. But while he was at Ole Miss, and hate me if you want to hate me, but.... he didn't make big plays. Sure. He made fantastic tackles after first downs. He made tons of big tackles, but there weren't many times when he did something and left me in absolute awe of teh IMPACT what he had done made on the game itself. No.... that honor goes to Peria Jerry. Jerry was ridiculous during his time at Ole Miss. As a junior and senior, teams had to double-team him, and that generally wasn't enough to stop him from at least impacting the play. So many times, we watched him absolutely obliterate the pocket many times in a single game, disrupting the play whether it was a run or a pass. He effected everything, and no one really talks about him anymore. Well he's my favorite Rebel defender of all time. I absolutely loved watching him play and often watched only him when he was in the game.
Those are our favorite Rebels. Who are yours?