CATEGORY: FOC College Football

AUTHOR: TODD

HED:Todd Vinyard: Several Rebs to have more than Georgia on their minds

Georgia will be on more than a few Ole Miss minds this week.

Saturday's football game is front and center, but a few Ole Miss players and coaches have strong connections to the Peach State.

Seven Ole Miss players are Georgia natives - but offensive line coach Hugh Nall and athletic director John Shafer have even stronger ties with the University of Georgia.

Nall graduated from Georgia in 1982. He was a four-year letterwinner as a center and blocked for Herschel Walker on the 1980 national championship game. It's been a few years but Nall can still hear the way Walker use to dazzle fans between the Hedges in Athens. That's right: "hear" him.

"I'll never forget when he'd run through the hole, you could hear him coming," Nall said. "And you didn't have to block very long until it was all over with, and you could see him going. It was an honor to block for a guy like that."

Nall still has fond memories of his days in the red-and-black playing for Vince Dooley. But he and the other Rebels from Georgia say they are going on a business trip to win. The last time Nall went to Sanford Stadium as an opponent he and the Rebels came away 31-27 winners in 1996.

"When I walk on that field, it brings back memories," Nall said. "Mostly, I think about the common goal we had, and as teammates how we worked to accomplish it. The relationship with that team and those guys is the thing I remember the most."

Now, Nall tries to pass along to his Ole Miss linemen that feeling of accomplishing something as a team.

Shafer is also trying to apply some of the lessons he learned during 16 years in the athletic department at Georgia.

"It's always special to see people you worked with very closely over the years," Shafer said. "But as far as Saturday, I am behind Ole Miss. We have some young men and coaches who have worked very hard. Hopefully, they can win these last two games and complete a great season."

For Shafer and his wife, Dianne, the trip means seeing their son Michael. The Shafer's only son is an assistant coach with the Georgia women's basketball team.

"That will be really special for me and Dianne," Shafer said. "We've kind of gone through the empty nest syndrome twice. Michael went away to college (William & Mary) and then came back to Georgia where he was close by. So it's been different being away from him again.

"We're looking forward to seeing him."

After five months on the job, Shafer seems to be looking forward to his future at Ole Miss. Plans were announced recently to raise nearly $20 million for facility improvements. Among the plans are a new indoor practice facility which will probably be used for football, baseball, and track. There are also plans for a new athletic building with offices for football coaches, athletic staff, and sports information.

And last, but not least, the plans call for renovation of present offices for academic and student services, a new track and field stadium, better golf locker rooms and offices, a renovation of the baseball locker rooms and improvements to the seating area in Tad Smith Coliseum.

"It's exciting because I've seen a lot of things done here from the football stadium seating expansion to women's facility improvements," Shafer said. "Now, I hope to be a part of more improvements."

Raising that kind of money won't be easy, but Shafer seems to feel his new school can get it done.

"All I know is the tremendous generosity Ole Miss people have shown me," Shafer said. "I think people here have a real love for the school and want to see it move forward."

Including a couple of former Georgia Bulldogs.

Todd Vinyard covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal.

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