For most of us in the world of College Football, we were sitting around this time last year talking about a lot of things in the game that would shape the 2012 season–especially when it came to the SEC.
Everyone knew the Alabama Crimson Tide were probably the team to beat. Those same people figured the Ole Miss Rebels didn’t stand a chance to win a game with the likes on an unproven man by the name of Hugh Freeze, who no one had heard of in their life.
Seriously, how could a guy from Lambuth University and Arkansas State who had three years of college coaching experience be able to survive the fire and brimstone that is the SEC? How could Ole Miss turn to Freeze in the wake of the failed Houston Nutt experiment? The Rebels needed someone with more moxie than a man who could win with the Eagles in the NAIA and the Red Wolves of the Sun Belt. Right?
Well, one year later on the verge of the Rebels Spring Practice, everyone knows exactly who Freeze is and what he can bring to the table in the mighty SEC. Whether you are one who thinks he is cheating or one who thinks Ole Miss can win the final BCS Title in 2013, everyone can agree Freeze has officially arrived on our collective radar.
But the question still remains: who is this guy and what makes him so special?
Let’s start with his Twitter posts.
Difficult doesn’t mean impossible. Pessimists make it so; optimists just try a little harder and make it work. – Anonymous #WinTheDay
— Hugh Freeze (@CoachHughFreeze) March 6, 2013
— Hugh Freeze (@CoachHughFreeze) March 5, 2013
That is a brief glimpse into what makes Freeze the man he is on and off the field. He is a joy to follow on Twitter and seems to have him very grounded in the chaotic and deadly world that is College Football. He definitely has the it factor when it comes to leadership and he has #RebelNation and #WinTheDay trending all over The Grove and the state of Mississippi.
But is that enough to take this man from nowhere to the darling of signing the Top Recruiting Class of 2013? What is it that these kids see in this mystery man? What is his secret?
Well, the myth is that everyone knows exactly who Coach Freeze is. In fact, every person in America, whether they like football or not, probably knows this man.
Freeze cut his coaching teeth and learned a lot about life and faith as the head coach for Briarcrest Christian Academy. But you might know Briarcrest better as Wingate and Coach Freeze as Coach Cotton, who helped shape the dead-end life of one Michael Oher into an All-SEC player and NFL standout with the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens.
That’s right folks, Freeze is part of the incredible story that was “The Blind Side.” When it comes to these kids today and their parents, there is no one with better street cred than this guy.
So the mystery man really has nothing to hide and he is not a myth. He is just a man who wants to do right by God, his family, his players and his team.
Whether he wins seven games in 2013 or 11, it is a formula that will bring him great success in Oxford, Miss. for years to come.
M Shannon Smallwood is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association.
Follow him @woodysmalls.