Taylor Hawkins Sports EditorEveryone remembers their first heartbreak. It’s something that sticks deep in your soul and never lets go.
I’m not talking about some girl/boy dumping you or your dog “running away.”
I’m talking about the first time your favorite team loses that huge game that would finally put them on the map, crushing you in the process.
Mine happened on November 22, 2003, when I was 13-years-old.
I was born into a pro-Ole Miss family, and we have had season tickets to Ole Miss football games ever since I can remember.
While I had been to a few Ole Miss games over the years, however, I was not a regular in the group so I missed going to most games. I would go to one every now and then, but it wasn’t the norm.
Ole Miss’ 2013 season started a change for me. With Eli slinging the ball, the Rebels began to climb the rankings, and their rising success marked my rising interest.
The Rebels blew two early games to Memphis and Texas Tech only to hit a six-game winning streak, which included wins over Alabama and Florida.
Their season led to a showdown with the Louisiana State University Tigers in Oxford. The winner was going to be crowned SEC West champions.
The normal group for my family was full, but luckily, a classmate of mine invited me to go with him to the game.
The whole town was packed, and we were forced to park over a mile away from the stadium and hoof it.
If you have never had the opportunity to experience LSU fans in person in the midst of a very successful season, you cannot truly call yourself a college football fan.
It was like Halloween on the University of Mississippi’s campus. The LSU fans were dressed extravagantly, with many sporting full body paint and purple and gold suits.
I will give it to LSU fans. They give more emotional investment to their team collectively than probably any other fans. I can respect that.
Not to be outdone, the Rebel fans wore every red and blue garment they could get their hands on for the war ahead.
There was a record breaking crowd in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium that night of 62,552 people. It was as loud as I have ever heard the stadium, even to this day.
LSU’s 2003 team was stocked full of future NFL players. They even had future College Football Hall of Famer Nick Saban as their coach.
Ole Miss had Eli. The team was solid around him, but he was the reason they had gotten so far.
In the first play from scrimmage, Ole Miss defensive back Travis Johnson intercepted the ball and ran it back for a quick touchdown. The roar of the crowd was absolutely deafening. The drunk LSU fan sitting behind me was flabbergasted.
The game wore on and the Tigers took the lead. It was a lead that Ole Miss was never able to regain.
During two of the drives that were stalled for Ole Miss, Lou Groza winner Jonathan Nichols missed two field goals. He only missed four field goals on the entire season. One was a 36-yarder that would have tied the game at 17 with four minutes left.
The Rebels had one last opportunity to take the lead with their final drive.
Eli had three straight incompletions on the first three plays. On fourth down, the center stepped back on Eli’s foot causing him to fall down, ending the play.
I was devastated. At 13-years-old, I did not know how to properly respond to the game. I was quiet and solemn for the rest of the night.
Although Ole Miss lost, it was no real surprise. Bad luck has plagued Ole Miss since their glory days. They have yet to win the SEC since it was split into divisions.
Plus LSU was probably the better team that year. The Tigers of LSU went on to win the SEC Championship and defeated Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. They split the National Championship that year with the University of Southern California.
Something changed in me that night. For something to hurt that bad, an emotional attachment has to be there, and with the loss, the attachment grew. I mourned for them.
The next year I started attending the home games religiously. I even started following football recruiting, the heart and soul of the sport. I could not get enough of Ole Miss football. It even opened my eyes to the “other” sports.
For every heartbreak, there will be triumph. While they haven’t had the “big one” in my lifetime, I always remain hopeful.
It has to be right around the corner.