Here's a chance to raise a toast to greatness
One of the greatest football teams in college football history will be celebrated Oct. 17 at the Renasant Bank Toast to the 1959 Ole Miss Rebels at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.
The 1959 Rebels outscored opponents 350-21 in achieving a 10-1 record, the lone loss coming 7-3 to LSU — a defeat the Rebels avenged in a 21-0 victory over LSU in the Sugar Bowl.
The Jeff Sagarin computer rankings rated Ole Miss as the third best team in college football over the 40-year period between 1956-1995. Had it not been for Billy Cannon’s famous 89-yard punt return, many believe the 1959 Ole Miss team would be rated the best team in college football history. The longest touchdown “drive” against the ’59 Rebels was eight yards.
The ’59 Rebels, widely considered the best football team in Mississippi football history, produced a dozen future Mississippi Sports Hall of Famers, not counting the coaching staff, which was headed by Hall of Famer John Vaught.
“If there was ever a better team than that one, I never saw it,” Vaught told a biographer in 1999. “We did not have a weakness.
“There was something truly special about that team,” Vaught said. “They weren’t just great players, they were great people. They were good students. You knew they were going to be successful, no matter what they did.”
Charlie Flowers, one of the team’s co-captains and another Hall of Famer, points out that 44 of the 45 players pictured in the team photograph graduated. These days, 60 percent is considered an outstanding graduation rate.
Flowers led the SEC in scoring and rushing from his fullback position. If not for Cannon’s punt return, he almost surely would have won the Heisman Trophy. He doubled as a linebacker, playing behind Larry Grantham, at defensive end.
“I got to jump on two or three pile-ups a game,” Flowers once said. “Of course, in most games I spent the second half begging Coach Vaught to let the starters play some more. We didn’t get to play much in the second halves.”
In the one defeat at LSU, the Tigers’ offense never crossed midfield. In the Sugar Bowl rematch, Cannon was limited to eight yards rushing by a swarming Rebel defense.
“I still can’t believe they agreed to play us in the Sugar Bowl,” Vaught told the biographer. “That was the dumbest thing anybody ever did. No way we were going to lose that game.”
The Oct. 17 Renasant Bank Toast to the 1959 Ole Miss Rebels will begin with reception (with heavy hors d’oeuvres) at 6 p.m., followed by a program at 7. The program will include a showing of a documentary of the 1959 season, remarks from Charlie Flowers and other players and an opportunity for the audience to ask questions of the team members present.
Tickets, $100, are available by calling the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum (601 982-8264). Or you may order tickets here.