Inspiring Leaders: Prewitt and Golson believe the Rebels are in good hands
It has been said one becomes a true leader through the quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.
There is no question Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze is a true leader. With Freeze at the helm, the Ole Miss football program continues to benefit not only from his guidance but also from his ability to teach leadership skills to his players. Rebel fans should have no qualms about the direction of the program, for it is in excellent hands.
As the college football faithful ready themselves for the 2015 season, so Rebel Nation finds itself wondering such things as who will replace Bo Wallace at quarterback; how the secondary will perform after losing two All-Americans; and, whether the offensive line will stay healthy.
Like everyone else, I’ve considered these questions since the conclusion of the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve in Atlanta. However, I have also wondered something equally important.
Who will step up and fill critical positions of leadership on the team?
As with all members of the press covering the Rebels, I had the opportunity last season to spend a fair amount of time in the presence of the football team at practices, press conferences and other media opportunities. What always stood out to me was the incredible character of its leaders and the role they played in the team’s success.
Young men like Cody Prewitt, Deterrian Shackelford, Senquez Golson, Serderius Bryant and Vince Sanders, to name a few, do not come along every day. In my mind, the leadership of the 2015 team will play as important a role in its success as will the actual talent on the field.
From what I continue to witness, Coach Freeze has instilled in his players the value of the quality of their actions and the integrity of their intent. Because of his leadership, Freeze’s players are learning how to become leaders, themselves, and are leaving that as part of their legacy when they move on from Ole Miss.
In their own words
I could offer you a list of names of the outstanding leaders who are returning from last year’s team—names like Evan Engram, Mike Hilton C.J. Johnson and Laquon Treadwell, to name a few—and assure you the 2015 Rebels are in good hands.
But it would undoubtedly mean more if I simply share with you the words of two of last year’s most-respected leaders, Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson, the two All-American Rebel defenders who have now moved on to the NFL.
Following the bowl game last season, I had the opportunity to cover these two players at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. While doing so, I noticed how frequently their comments turned to leadership. They addressed Coach Freeze’s directorship of the team, what they learned from him, and which players they believe will help lead this year’s team in their absence.
Inspiring others through leadership
Cody offered his thoughts on leadership to those of us gathered at a dinner held in honor of his and Senquez’ selection to the Senior Bowl:
I believe the best leader is one who learns how to develop other leaders. Senquez and I really, really took that to heart when it came to being in practice and helping train the guys under us.
Senquez reminded everyone just how far the Rebels traveled from the 2-10 season his freshman year and the leadership it took to get there. “Cody and I came in with guys like Serderius (Bryant) and Donte (Moncrief), and we all talked about the way we wanted to run things as leaders and the way we wanted to leave things when we were done,” he explained.
The All-American cornerback from Pascagoula, Miss. described a very important aspect of their coach’s teaching. He recounted how Coach Freeze offered them the tools to lead and then let them do so. “Coach Freeze gave us the opportunity to sort of take over the team while he oversaw things. He taught us to lead in the right way,” Golson said.
Changing the mindset
It was also important to Golson that he explain how in addition to developing leaders, part of Coach Freeze’s own leadership involved coming in and changing the mindset at Ole Miss:
When he came to Ole Miss, Coach Freeze changed the culture and changed how we do things. He talked to us about football, but he also cared about us as football players. So the biggest thing to me in the turnaround here has been that Coach Freeze came in and changed the culture of how we feel about ourselves and one another; that made all the difference for us.
Prewitt, too, addressed the changes that took place in the program upon Freeze’s arrival. “Coach Freeze created an atmosphere that made the players want to play for each other, and that meant a lot; it has made all the difference,” he added, of Coach Freeze’s leadership.
Golson: “When you’re 2-10, nobody has your back EXCEPT your Ole Miss family”
Golson spoke of the ascension of the Ole Miss football program, reminding everyone of what it was like for his classmates and him before Coach Freeze arrived. “You know, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for us at Ole Miss,” he said, smiling. “We were 2-10 our freshman year, and it took us until our fourth year to get on the national scene.”
Golson described how he and his fellow classmates talked in the early days of their careers about taking Ole Miss to the point the program is now, but he noted it was “one wild, wild ride” in the process. “It was hard work, and we came a long, long way,” he declared.
He pointed out what the Rebel family has meant to the team on its journey. “Y’all don’t know how much we love the support from the fans. That keeps us going,” he added. He drew laughter from the crowd when he also volunteered:
I’ll say this, when you’re 2-10, nobody has your back EXCEPT your Ole Miss family.
Prewitt: “They really love each other”
In his closing thoughts on the future of the program, Prewitt was quite specific as to what players he expects will step up to replace him and Senquez—and why. “Mike Hilton, Trae Elson, C.J. Hampton,” he quickly said. “We’ve got a ton of really good athletes who are ready to take our place and they’re not going to miss a beat,” he explained.
Prewitt choked up as he cut to the heart of why he has no reservations about the hands in which he and Senquez leave the Ole Miss football team:
They really love each other. They’re going to play for each other, and they’re going to do what they have to in order to get a win every Saturday.
It has been said the final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men, the conviction and the will to carry on. Coach Freeze continues to inspire and teach players like Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson how to lead, and they, in turn, become examples for their teammates—teammates who are now called upon to lead the next group of young men who will proudly declare: “I AM an Ole Miss Rebel!”
(Feature image credit: Bentley Breland, The Rebel Walk)