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OXFORD, Miss. – It is a short four-and-a-half-hour drive from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium to Troy, Ala. But for a couple of former Rebels, it took them about half a decade to reunite and it is happening in the southeast Alabama hamlet.
Recently, former Ole Miss assistant coach Jon Sumrall was named head coach of the Trojans and Thursday it was announced former Rebel linebacker Tayler Polk will coach that position at Troy.
— Tayler Polk (@Tayler24Polk) January 20, 2022
Sumrall coached in Oxford in 2018 and that year Polk was his graduate assistant.
“I had the pleasure of getting to know Tayler when he was a graduate assistant at Ole Miss,” Sumrall said. “He’s one of the brightest young coaches in the game and has a motor that never stops.”
Polk was hired after spending two seasons at Central Arkansas.
He was a fan favorite at Ole Miss as a player. Originally a walk-on, Polk earned four letters for the Rebels and played in every game from 2014-17 including five starting assignments. He totaled 97 tackles in his career—52 of them solo stops – 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack, three pass break ups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Here’s another Ole Miss Rebel with a heart the size of the state of Mississippi: Tayler Polk. ❤️💙 pic.twitter.com/ylOQBfk47J
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) November 19, 2017
Polk’s best game came against Texas A&M when he tallied 12 tackles in 2017.
The Brandon native was named the 2012 Metro High School Player of the Year by The Clarion-Ledger and played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game. In the 2012 Class 6-A title game, Polk had 35 tackles for the Bulldogs.
Let's all watch and relish in the absurdity of the replay of Tayler Polk covering Christian Kirk. pic.twitter.com/zahs1VmfvT
— Ben Garrett (@SpiritBen) November 19, 2017
This is Sumrall’s second stint in Troy. He served as the assistant head coach for the Trojans under Neal Brown from 2015-17. During his time at Troy, the Trojans’ biggest win was a 24-21 upset of LSU in Baton Rouge.
“I fell in love with Troy and can’t wait to return home and reconnect with the tremendous fan base,” Sumrall said at his introductory press conference in December. “Troy football has a proud tradition of success, and I look forward to leading this program back to a championship level.”
Troy is the only team to win a football national title in the NAIA, NCAA Division II, reach the FCS semifinals and win an FBS bowl game. Apart from the win at LSU, the Trojans have also won at Nebraska, Mississippi State and defeated ranked Missouri and Oklahoma State in Troy.
From Troy, Sumrall went to Ole Miss for a season and then to Kentucky where he rose to the post of co-defensive coordinator before accepting his first head-coaching position.
Sumrall replaced the fired Chip Lindsey. Lindsey has moved on to be the offensive coordinator at UCF where he will now coach former Rebel John Rhys Plumlee.
Sumrall and Polk are in new positions, but they won’t have to wait long to return to familiar territory. The first game for the new head coach and a first-time FBS assistant?
Troy opens the season Sept. 3 at Ole Miss.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.