Down the red carpet they went, as Ole Miss student athletes, dressed in their Sunday best, made their way into The Pavilion for the sixth annual Rebels’ Choice Awards ceremony. It’s an event that started in 2011 as a way for the Ole Miss Athletic Department to celebrate National Student-Athlete day.
“We’re here because of the student-athletes. They’re the beginning and the end,” Athletic Director Ross Bjork said. “I think it’s a testament to showcasing what our student athletes do on and off of the fields and the courts and the tracks. So, we owe it to them to celebrate something like this and I’m glad we can do it.”
Various sports across campus received 19 awards. From football to riflery and everything in between, the achievement and hard work of student athletes is recognized across the board.
Stefan Moody and Raven Saunders of the basketball and track teams each won Most Valuable Rebel, given to the student athlete whose outstanding individual performance was instrumental to his or her team’s success on the field.
“It means a lot that I can get the support of Rebel nation. It feels great,” Moody said. “It shows that Rebel nation is a family. We are not just a bunch of individuals. We are a family and we root for each other.”
Football Head Coach Hugh Freeze and soccer Coach Matt Mott won Coach of the Year. Freeze and the Rebels won 10 games in 2015 that culminated with a Sugar Bowl win. Mott and the Rebel soccer team reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history while collecting 14 wins, which was good for third-most in school history.
Football brought home another award after Quincy Adeboyjo’s deflected catch and touchdown run against Alabama won Play of the Year.
“I’m truly blessed to be a part of Rebel nation,” football defensive back Derrick Jones said. “I look forward to what’s to come for us.”
Forrest Gamble of the men’s golf team and Sam Sanders of the soccer team took home the Hotty Toddy award given to the student athletes who show the most passion for their sport and team.
The same two sports were honored again when golfer Braden Thornberry and Cece Kiser took home Rookie of the Year, which given to the most outstanding freshman.
The baseball team took home the Community Outreach Award given to the team that makes the biggest impact in the community.
“Ole Miss has always had the ability to compete and they’ve always had resources and a great University to showcase,” Bjork said.”I think what we’ve done is try to have a really positive attitude. I think we’ve tried to capitalize on those assets, and we’ve tried to grow those assets too.”
It was clear on Monday that under Bjork’s leadership, along with the time and effort the student-athletes and coaches at Ole Miss, that its athletic brand as a whole is growing.
“I think that attracts more success. When you have a positive attitude, and you’re committed at the highest level, then great things can happen,” Bjork said. “I believe that it’s always had this potential. Now we’ve got to get it to the next level, and win those SEC championships, and win national championships. We’ve laid a foundation, and I think that’s a starting point to get to the next level.”
Full List of Awards:
Men’s Rookie of the Year: Braden Thornberry, Men’s Golf
Women’s Rookie of the Year: CeCe Kizer, Soccer
Men’s Community Service Outreach: Baseball
Women’s Community Service Outreach: Women’s Basketball
Men’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Forrest Gamble, Men’s Golf
Women’s Scholar Athlete of the Year: Danielle Gray, Soccer
Men’s Hotty Toddy (Spirit) Award: Forrest Gamble, Men’s Golf
Women’s Hotty Toddy (Spirit) Award: Sam Sanders, Soccer
Men’s Coach of the Year: Hugh Freeze, Football
Women’s Coach of the Year: Matt Mott, Soccer
Men’s Most Valuable Rebel: Stefan Moody, Men’s Basketball
Women’s Most Valuable Rebel: Raven Saunders, Women’s Track and Field
Men’s Team of the Year: Football
Women’s Team of the Year: Soccer
We Are Ole Miss Award: Dennis “Super D” Nelson – Grill at 1810
Bennie Abram Award: Tayler Polk, Football
Play of the Year (Tie): Quincy Adeboyejo’s “Tip Six” vs. Alabama and Maddie Friedmann’s last second 2OT goal vs. Arkansas
Game of the Year: Football’s second straight win over Alabama