Brandon Pratt, president of the Ole Miss Club in Meridian, was just a little apprehensive as to how many people might show up for the first stop of the Rebel Road Trip featuring Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones, Athletic Director Ross Bjork and new Head Coach Hugh Freeze.
It was the early hour, 7:30 a.m., that had Pratt concerned more than anything. He knew Ole Miss fans would want to meet the new coach, the 37th at Ole Miss, whom the administration hired in December of 2011. What Pratt got was a standing room only crowd who were hanging onto every word from the three men.
"It went much better than I could have hoped," said Pratt later Monday. "We had around 150 people with some standing in the back of the room."
The Rebel Road Trip kicked off its 16-city tour at the Holiday Inn in Meridian. The event featured talks from all three men as well as fan meetings and question and answers sessions.
In addition to the speakers, the stop included, information booths, merchandise and an exciting video look at the University, including Rebel Athletics, the UMAA Foundation and the Alumni Association.
"It was really very well put together and I think everyone left feeling much better about the new coach and the AD," Pratt said. "Bjork really stole the show."
Pratt said Bjork, who has literally been on the job for about eight days, had really done his homework. Pratt said he had the Ole Miss fans eating out of the palm of his hand.
"That guy is really sharp, forward thinking and aggressive," Pratt said. "I think we will see great things coming from the campus in the years to come."
The road trip is an attempt by Ole Miss officials to get the new faces in front of the fans as much as possible. Pratt said in a football hungry part of the country such as the Southeastern Conference, it doesn't take much to get fans energized for the upcoming season.
"We have taken our lumps in the last few years but we always have hope," Pratt said, speaking as a pure Ole Miss fan. "We have new life in the form of Coach Freeze and Bjork so we are really looking forward to the next few years."
The Rebel Road Trip will feature morning, midday and evening fan meetings across the region wrapping up Saturday, April 28 in Oxford at the Double Decker Arts Festival.
The Rebel Road Trip headed to Waynesboro after its stop in Meridian for a gathering at First Baptist Church.