“Bought me an Ole Miss bluebird house,” he said, smiling broadly Monday morning as he visited with others prior to the second stop on Rebel Road Trip 2012.
Copeland, visibly pleased "Ole Miss" had come to town, dropped by for a few minutes to see how things were going as the setup continued for the lunch meeting that features Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones, head football coach Hugh Freeze, and athletics director Ross Bjork.
“I’ve been an Ole Miss fan a long time,” Copeland said.
He remembers the exact year, back when the Rebels were among the nation’s powerhouse football programs.
“That was in 1957,” he said, recalling it like it was yesterday. “Raymond Brown was the quarterback. Those were some good teams back then.”
Copeland admitted right now he’d just like the Rebels to get to a bowl game as soon as possible. He had another commitment for today and couldn’t stick around to hear Bjork and Freeze talk of their plans to get to bowl games and beyond. But that’s only part of what Rebel Road Trip 2012, the first venture of its kind for Ole Miss, is all about.
The Rebel Road Trip is sponsored by the Ole Miss Alumni Association, the Ole Miss Athletics Department, and the UMAA Foundation. The first of 16 stops was earlier today up Highway 45 in Meridian, a crossroads of Southeastern Conference fans and alumni. Bjork, learning the state of Mississippi, mentioned he had heard that was the case.
Johnny Upton of Newton County, and a past president of the Newton County Ole Miss Club, was in attendance at Meridian, along with close to 150 other Rebels and officials from The University of Mississippi.
“It’s exposure,” Upton said of the first #RRT12 stop in Lauderdale County. “There’s too much Alabama here; too much Mississippi State.”
He liked where officials had placed the Rebel Road Trip touring bus – between the hotel where the meeting was held and Interstate 20, which connects places like Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Jackson, Miss.
Coach Hugh Freeze
“State and Alabama folks can see it,” Upton smiled and said.
So can Ole Miss folks, which is what this “road trip” is actually all about. It’s about helping unite a fan base, and it's about introducing them to their newest athletic leaders.
Asked Chancellor Jones, who referred to Ole Miss as "The Flagship" of Mississippi on a couple of occasions, to those in Meridian, “How many of you were at the baseball game Saturday?”
Probably 40 percent of those in the room raised their hands.
“That was the best college baseball atmosphere in the country,” he said. “And you were a part of it.”
That was the message from all three. Be a part of it all.
“There are a lot of passionate Rebel fans here,” said Brandon Pratt, president of the Meridian Ole Miss Club. “We thought it would be tough to get people here on a Monday morning this early (the meeting began at 7:30 a.m.), but they are here. We’re excited to be able to help kick off this new era for Ole Miss.”
Most stayed until the event was over at nearly 9 a.m. Some, like Newton Mayor David Carr, had to slip out a little early.
“Duty calls,” he said, heading for the door.
And former Rebel baseball player John Morgan Mims who had to make an early departure.
But the first event of the #RRT12 was a success – breakfast in Meridian to set the tone for the week.
“There’s good, young leadership here in the Meridian Ole Miss Club,” Upton said. “They’re going to help keep this momentum going down here.”
That’s what Jones, Bjork, and Freeze all hope to hear as Rebel Road Trip 2012 moves from here in Waynesboro to Gulfport tonight. Then it’s day two, beginning in the heart of the Mississippi Delta – Indianola – first thing Tuesday morning.
A complete schedule of #RRT12 is found at olemisssports.com.
(More to come later from Rebel Road Trip 2012 and The Ole Miss Spirit with remarks from Bjork and Freeze.)