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Today is February 16, 2020

A family tradition spans across the SEC football landscape

By Dale McKee

A family tradition spans across the SEC football landscape

Drew, Hoppy and Mitt Cole

Not many football fathers have the chance to witness an eight-year journey across the SEC football landscape as M. Ray “Hoppy” Cole has. He was a three-year letterman at Ole Miss while son Mitt would later play at LSU and son Drew at Auburn. Hoppy’s two great highlights are of his sons winning national championship rings. Mitt won his title with LSU in 2007 while Drew won his at Auburn in 2010. The elder Cole was not left out totally, as he does have some hardware from helping lead Pascagoula to the Big 8 state championship in 1976.

“I used to kid with them and say, ‘When you play on Saturday, you can talk trash,’” Hoppy said. Well, Mitt and Drew reversed it on him as then now can laughingly say, “When you play on Monday, you can talk trash, dad.”

Hoppy is a bank president and CEO of The First in Hattiesburg. The Pascagoula native’s first taste of football came early. He grew up an Ole Miss fan because of his older neighbor, Allen Bush. Bush signed with Coach Johnny Vaught’s powerhouse and played for the Rebels from 1965-67. “My dad took an old bus and made it into a camper,” Hoppy said. “He did it because every Saturday we were following Ole Miss and Bush around.” Hoppy remembers riding in that overhauled bus all the way to El Paso to see Ole Miss play. Hoppy later followed in Bush’s footsteps to Pascagoula High and then to Ole Miss. Unfortunately for Hoppy, in his three varsity seasons in Oxford under Steve Sloan, the Rebels were not very productive. Even so, he said, “We had some great moments. We beat State twice and whipped USM. I also played with and against some of the greatest in SEC history.” 

Mitt started his high school playing career at South Jones High School in Ellisville. Midway through his junior year, his dad was in the midst of helping start up a new bank, and the job called for relocating the family to Picayune. Mitt, a 6-4, 265-pound tight end, had already attracted college attention. Coaches were making comments like, “Who is that big kid that can run?”

“I grew up an Ole Miss fan,” stated Mitt. “My final two choices came down to LSU and Ole Miss. It really came down to that I wanted to play for Nick Saban.” After Mitt’s second year, Saban was hired away by the Miami Dolphins. In came Les Miles to coach the Tigers. In the final game of Mitt’s career, he helped the Tigers win their first National Championship since 1958. “We beat Ohio State in the Superdome for the title. Nothing like that feeling,” Mitt reminisced. Mitt also works for The First. 

Drew was a tagalong to college camps with Mitt since he was four years younger. Drew, who was a running back and defensive back in high school, ran a 4.39 40-yard dash. He became very close to the LSU and Auburn coaching staffs. They stayed in touch, and in the end, Drew chose Auburn over LSU and Ole Miss. “I grew up an Ole Miss fan until Mitt went to LSU,” stated Drew. “Dad never put any pressure on us to sign with any particular school. Coaches come and go, so it should be all about the school. I was going to play defensive back in college, so to me on the football side was all about the defensive schemes the teams were running.” During his junior season, the Tigers beat Oregon for the national title. Drew works for Laurel’s Sanderson Farms.

 

Dale McKee is a Waynesboro resident who has been writing about sports in Mississippi since 1973. 

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