As Ole Miss gets set to kick off their season, here is a look back at the best players to take the field for the Rebels from 2000-2009. It’s a great reminder to fans with Ole Miss football tickets of the caliber of players that come through Oxford.
1) Eli Manning, QB (2000-2003):While Manning has certainly had more success in the NFL than he did in Oxford, he was still a phenomenal quarterback for the Rebels throughout his career. The son of Rebel great Archie Manning more than lived up to his father’s legacy, breaking many of his dad’s school records in the process. A three year starter for David Cutcliffe, Manning finished his career with 10,119 passing yards, still good for seventh all-time in the SEC, and his 81 career touchdown passes are easily the most in school history. During his senior season of 2003, he led the Rebels to a 10-3 record, won the Maxwell Award and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting. He has since more than lived up to the hype of being the No. 1 overall pick in 2004, leading the Giants to Super Bowl titles in 2007 and 2011, taking home the Super Bowl MVP award in both games, and still has a long playing career ahead of him. There is now legitimate reasoning that Eli is the best quarterback in his family, and one of the best Rebels of all-time.
2) Patrick Willis, MLB (2003-2006): There are few defensive players over the last decade as intimidating as Willis, or as physically gifted, and the talented linebacker put all his talents to good use for the Rebels. A lightly regarded recruit out of Tennesse, Willis developed into the most dominating linebacker in the country, winning the Butkus Award as a senior in 2006. A two-time All-SEC and All-American middle linebacker for Ole Miss, Willis racked up 355 tackles, placing him sixth in school history. He has since gone on to become one of the best linebackers in the NFL, and is a perennial All-Pro candidate for the 49ers.
3) Dexter McCuster, RB/WR (2006-2009):One of the most explosive playmakers to ever take the field for the Rebels, McCuster was productive no matter where he lined up. McCuster is No. 2 in school history in all purpose yards despite little production in the return game, instead contributing as a multifaceted runner and receiver. He saved his best for last, rushing for 1,169 yards, the second-best season total in Ole Miss history, when his role was finally increased as a senior. A jack-of-all trades, McCuster was a dynamic force for the Rebels throughout his career.
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