Neil White to discuss 125 Years of Ole Miss Football at Off Square Books

Published 9:13 am Thursday, October 17, 2019

At first glance, Neil White’s latest offering looks like the prototypical coffee table book, but on the inside, it is anything but.

“Stories From 125 Years of Ole Miss Football” dives into some of the more off-the-beaten path stories and anecdotes surrounding the Rebel football program. Knowing this landmark season was coming, White said he began researching and compiling stories three years ago, but he wanted to wait for the cloud of the NCAA investigation to move away from Oxford and the Ole Miss campus. Once that happened, White began production on what he views as one of his most fun projects in January 2018.

“I’d been collecting old newspaper articles from the time before anybody’s still alive to talk about it,” White said. “We wanted to do this a little different and not recycle the same stories. So, the first question with each interview was, ‘Tell us something most people don’t know about.’ So, it would be kind of a behind the scenes, here’s an interesting human interest story or something really funny or bizarre that happened.”

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White was able to do research up to about 1945 before he began production of the book. To get some of those behind-the-scenes stories, White recruited some of the people who would know the ins and outs of the Ole Miss program best. Along with players who would speak, White asked writers Jeff Roberson, Rick Cleveland, Billy Watkins and Chuck Rounsaville to offer their insight.

The newspaper clippings from 1893 to the 1940s provided White with plenty of material and information he never knew, he said. Most of the articles would contain the usual play-by-play information, but some would offer up unique tidbits such as if a player “lost a thumb,” or if someone was knocked out or concussed for the second time. One story offered up the time when the 1907 team warmed themselves up before the Mississippi State game by drinking whiskey, which was provided by the coach.

“There were these great details and interviews with the players and coaches that most people just haven’t mined before,” White said. “I found some great things that most people didn’t know about.”

When compiling stories and articles for his book, White said he kept it about 80 percent funny or lighthearted anecdotes, but did add some balance throughout with some more serious essays. One such essay tells the story of former defensive end Larry Grantham and his road to redemption and forgiveness from his teammates after an incident that occurred following the Gator Bowl on Dec. 27, 1958.

On Friday, White will hold a discussion of his book at Off Square Books. Along with White, some guests will join him onstage, including former Ole Miss chancellor Robert Khayat. During the talk, there will be stories told about Khayat, Billy Ray Adams and Lewis Guy and other surprise guests. The reception begins at 5 p.m., with the book signing starting around 5:30 p.m.