Stand Up, Rebel Nation: The Shea Patterson Era Has Begun
OXFORD, Miss. — Expectations can be very dangerous. In most cases they’re outright unfair. When the build-up for something is so extreme, it leaves little room for a positive surprise. One thing is certain; Rebel Nation knows how to build up hopes. In several cases throughout the program’s history, the hype led to disappointment. On the other hand, every once in a while, expectations are shattered and the crowd rises to its feet—and in that moment knows it is witnessing something special and does not want it to end.
Red-headed sophomore from Drew, MS gets his first start
On September 20, 1968, a red-headed sophomore kid from Drew, Mississippi got his first start as the Ole Miss quarterback. The expectations outside of the little Delta town were somewhat tame, in large part, because football was not covered with the same constancies and technologies that exist today in sports media.
However, that day the Rebels headed to Memphis Memorial Stadium to take on the Tigers. Archie Manning made his debut by leading Ole Miss to a 21-7 win. He did so by rolling out right, reversing back left leaving defenders scattered out all over the field. He beat them with his legs. He beat them with his arm. And Rebel Nation rose to its feet and didn’t sit down for three years.
Another Manning in Oxford
Over the course of the next three decades, the Rebels would experience highs and lows. Some expectations would be met, while others would fall flat. The build-up to September 1, 2001, reached a boiling point. The previous season, Ole Miss got a taste of what redshirt freshman Eli Manning was capable of doing. His abilities and his last name had Oxford shaking when the Rebels opened the season with Murray State. Vaught-Hemingway erupted as Manning completed each of his first 19 pass attempts on the way to a five-touchdown day and a 49-14 win. Over the next three years, Eli Manning would rewrite the record books and lead Ole Miss to its first 10 win season in decades.
From Chad to Shea
The build-up over Ole Miss freshman quarterback Shea Patterson has been similar and substantial. He was ‘Mr. Everything’ in high school and sat atop the national recruiting ranks, so, naturally, Rebels everywhere have had huge expectations for when the time would come for Patterson to take the reins from Chad Kelly.
Unfortunately, an injury moved up the timetable for that passing of the torch, and on November 12, 2016, Shea Patterson made his debut for the Ole Miss Rebels.
A year ago, Patterson had just wrapped up his high school football season and was focusing on completing his senior classes so he could graduate early and head to Oxford. Now, he found himself lining up at quarterback for a 4-5 Ole Miss team on the road against a ranked opponent that boasted one of the game’s best pass rushers.
It’s the little things…
We all know how things went. The Rebels won the game, coming from behind in the fourth quarter to defeat the No. 8 team in the nation.
Patterson did things that you aren’t supposed to be able to do as a true freshman. He said the right things in the interview. He pumped his fist to the visiting Rebel crowd.
He has been the talk of the town since Saturday. It was great. It was clearly something special, but it wasn’t the win that made it special. It was the little things.
It was the way that an offensive lineman immediately would pick Patterson up after he got tackled. It was the way Patterson met his teammates in the end zone after scores. It was the way when he reversed his field, generations of Rebel fans couldn’t help but smile as their mind’s drifted back to that red-headed kid from Drew, Mississippi.
It was the way Patterson paid homage to his injured senior teammates, instead of drawing any attention to himself. Those things are what made it special. Those are the things that shattered expectations. It wasn’t about his age or even the win. It was about giving his team and Rebel Nation a reason to stand up and get excited about what is to come.
The Shea Patterson Era has begun, and Rebel fans should not plan on sitting down any time soon.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)
Webb Lewis is the founder of the Southern Elite Sports Media Network and the Fortius Project Combines. He played football for David Cutcliffe at Ole Miss and was a member of the 2004 Cotton Bowl team. He loves covering high school football in the great state of Mississippi but has a passion for the Ole Miss Rebels and loves to talk about the history of the Red & Blue. He and his wife, Tiffany have a son, Jack and reside in Oxford.