Mississippi quickly adding to my football memories

Published 1:25 pm Friday, June 21, 2024

I know we’re in the beginning of summer, but is there ever a bad time to talk about football in the South? 

It’s on my mind in late June for a couple of reasons – and they all lead back to Mississippi, I’ve realized. 

In the last year or so, my son Colin has really started getting into football, much to my delight. And one of the ways I’ve fed his new interest is through the United Football League, which is basically the equivalent of a minor league baseball team, except it doesn’t act as a “farm team” for any specific NFL franchise. But, what it is is a great way to fill the void of the collegiate and NFL off-seasons with some spring football.

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Being from Alabama, I immediately jumped on the Birmingham Stallions’ bandwagon when the league began as the USFL three years ago. We’ve never had a professional football team in Alabama (unless you count the argument that the Crimson Tide could take down some of the NFL’s worst teams), so Brimingham having any level of professional football was an exciting prospect. What was even more exciting was the Stallions winning the USFL championship in its first season as a league since it fell apart after its original stint in the 1980s. In year two, the Stallions made it back-to-back championships and the excitement grew.

This season, the USFL merged with the XFL to create the UFL. Still with me? It was exciting to see how it all fleshed out, especially with Birmingham bringing in a whole new crop of players, including former Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral. By the time the kids and I made it over to Birmingham for a game this year, Corral had lost the starting spot to eventual UFL league MVP Adrian Martinez. But Corral had a really cool redemption moment in the playoffs, which elevated the Stallions to this year’s championship game and an eventual third straight title.

But, the Mississippi connections don’t end there. When Colin first started getting into football a few years back, he felt the need to adopt an NFL team and, again – having no Alabama franchises – he looked elsewhere and somehow landed on the San Francisco 49ers. So, when he learned the great Jerry Rice is not only from Starkville, but played at Mississippi Valley State, he was pretty impressed with the talent that has come out of the Magnolia State for decades. 

All of that combined with his first collegiate football game being between Alabama and Mississippi State last season in Starkville, and the fact that his stepdad and his family are Ole Miss fans, and it looks like I’m in for a lot more Mississippi-based football in the years to come. And I’m fine with that. 

Seeing as how the newly restructured SEC means Alabama doesn’t play either Mississippi school in 2024, maybe I should choose a side, too. What do you guys think? Bulldogs or Rebels? Let the courting process begin. I enjoy seafood and a good book. Gift cards are acceptable. 

Blake Bell is the general manager and executive editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at blake.bell@vicksburgpost.com