‘I’m In” Sign Fuels Rebels’ Desire to Work Hard and Improve
OXFORD, Miss. – Prior to stepping onto the practice field, Ole Miss players tap a sign to remind them to focus on that day. That sign simply reads, “I’m In.”
After Monday’s practice, three Rebel defenders — Austin Keys, Ladarius Tennison, and Markevious Brown –addressed what this means to them.
Keys, a redshirt sophomore linebacker is returning to the field after suffering an injury last season and is one of the veterans on the defense. Tapping that sign each day reminds him it is time to go to work.
“When you hit that sign, you know, it’s just a sign to like leave everything before you step on the field. Give everything when you step on the field and give 100 (percent) and don’t leave no regret.”
When healthy, Keys has given his all on the field for Ole Miss. In ten games, the Collins, Miss., native has recorded 12 tackles, five of them solo, and has recovered a fumble.
He is not the only player who is motivated by the sign outside the practice field.
“To me I feel like that sign means to lock in when you step on the field,” sophomore safety Ladarius Tennison said.
“I can’t say just for me, but for everybody I feel like that sign means you’ve got to when you tap that sign, you’re locked in and you mean business and you feel like you’ve got to go hard.”
Hustling is something Tennison did at his previous school, Auburn. For the Tigers last season, he played in 12 games and made 22 tackles, 4.5 of them for loss.
The sign has also inspired Markevious Brown, a redshirt freshman defensive back, who is looking to get his first significant playing time this season for the Rebels.
“For me personally, when I am on that field and I tap that sign, even though I am already mentally locked in it just lets me know every play you know give it your all. I’m all in, everything I got.”
Players competing hard
That kind of motivation from touching the sign has led to a lot of players competing hard for playing time once they step on the practice field.
“The competition across the board is just football,” Keys said. “I expect competition, it is what it is. We try to make (competing) every day to make each other better but you know we all look for reps and work.”
The competition is indeed ramped up during this first week of camp which can occasionally lead to a bit of chippiness as was seen today — not necessarily a bad thing.
“Being day five you know, we got a lot of young guys, I feel like we’re getting there but I feel like we got more work to do,” Tennison said. “We get chippy on the field because we got a lot of excitement. We know what type of players we got on the field, so it’s always kind of competition going on, so it’s bound to get rowdy out there, so just a lot of excitement.”
Tennison says the team is also close when not on the football field.
“Off the field you have fun with the whole team. We have fun. We mean business. We work. A lot of guys are like a brother off the field. You may see us get chippy on the field, but off the field we are all together, all hanging out and having fun.“
After a week of camp, the players seem to have a lot of excitement in anticipation for the season opener Sept. 3 against Troy.
At least, all signs point to that.
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.