Gearing Up for Game Day

From patting a bust of Chucky Mullins to cartoons and Snickers wrappers, Ole Miss football players revel in game weekend traditions and superstitions.

Written by Rachel Burchfield | Illustrated by Frank Estrada

The opposing team’s players don’t know it, but every football game, Ole Miss offensive lineman Nick Broeker has a Snickers wrapper stuffed into his left sock for good luck.

Broeker, a superstitious guy, has been doing this faithfully in every athletic event he’s participated in since he was 13, after he did so for the first time — and went on to score 40 points in a basketball game.

“I’ve never stopped since,” he said.

While the team as a whole doesn’t participate in superstitious rituals like that, Broeker said many of his teammates have their own version of the Snickers wrapper, like drinking a certain flavor of Gatorade, waking up at the exact time or eating the same meal before every game day, all in the name of good luck and hoping for the W.

Wide receiver Braylon Sanders doesn’t necessarily have any pregame superstitions, but he does appreciate team traditions, like spending the night at a hotel together the night before home games. In the past, the team has stayed in Tupelo and driven back to Oxford for game day; however, this season, Sanders said, they’ll be staying right on campus at The Inn at Ole Miss.

“I like the change,” Sanders said. “I like it better than driving all the way from Tupelo.”

It’ll give the players a little bit of extra time to rest, Broeker said.

“We’ll have a bit of extra time to sleep because it reduces our travel time before games,” he said. “More rest is awesome for us. How convenient that we’ll be staying on campus — it reduces a lot of travel.”

Broeker said every season each player rooms with the same teammate for all overnight stays, a teammate with whom he inevitably ends up getting extra close.

“We room with the same teammate every time,” Broeker, a junior, said. “We have our own superstitions. We always watch basketball the Friday night before a game, or cartoons.”

Sanders, a senior this season, is thrilled to have the Walk of Champions tradition back, a tradition started in 1983 by Coach Billy Brewer.

During the Walk of Champions, fans crowd in and hoist children up on their shoulders to catch a glimpse of the home team as they walk to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium to play that day’s game. It’s a uniting, unifying moment between players, coaches and fans in the Grove, as the team walks through the Walk of Champions archway — provided in 1998 by the 1962 football team, the only Ole Miss football team so far to have a perfect, unblemished record — and through the stunning tree-lined path of the Grove, packed with tents and overflowing with Rebel pride and the intoxicating game-day atmosphere for which Ole Miss has become known.

Sanders is also excited to have team dinners the night before game day and, depending on what time the game is on Saturday, either worship the night before game day or the morning of.

Once the team hits the locker room on game day, though, “everyone is focused and in their own zone,” Sanders said. Then, he said, head coach Lane Kiffin will come in and, as a group, the team will listen to his pregame speech.

“Then it’s time to get ready to go,” Sanders said.

On their way onto the field, every Rebel player touches a bronze bust of legendary Ole Miss football player Chucky Mullins, patting his head before running onto the field. Mullins, a defensive back for the Rebels, was injured during Ole Miss’ homecoming game against Vanderbilt on Oct. 28, 1989. The injury left Mullins a quadriplegic. He died in 1991 after returning to Ole Miss to finish his undergraduate degree.

“It’s a huge honor,” Broeker said. “He epitomizes what Ole Miss is.”

Time together as a team the night before and during game day is priceless, Broeker said. He calls it the best part about being on the team.

“It’s about camaraderie,” he said. “During dinner or locker room time is when we make the best memories and stories.”

Sanders said during the game the offensive players and the defensive players don’t get to see or talk to one another much — they’re too busy doing their respective jobs. That makes their time together as one big unit even more valuable, bonding as teammates and as brothers.

“Being with each other before games and learning more about each other and then to go out and support them the following day is great,” Sanders said. “I think it’s a big deal.”

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