New receivers coach Jacob Peeler is a rising star in the coaching world. He ventured over from the University of California, Berkeley (whom the Rebels face on the road this weekend) during the tumultuous offseason and needed a way to immediately motivate the receiving corps. He found that motivation in an unconventional source: the Nasty Wide Outs belt.
During the season opener against South Alabama, Ole Miss receiver Damarkus Lodge became something of a Twitter sensation when he appeared on the sideline sporting an NWO wrestling title belt after scoring a touchdown. The belt appeared several times throughout the game and then made a return in the following week’s home win against UT Martin. The belt, inscribed with the words “Nasty Wide Outs,” generated a host of questions from sports fans nationwide.
Those questions were put to rest once and for all by Peeler in a recent press conference.
“It’s a camaraderie deal. It’s our identity,” Peeler said without any hint of irony. “I want us to go out there and be the nastiest group on the field – within the rules of the game, of course.”
He made it clear that his wrestling belt, much like his receiving corps, is no gag. His team is the real deal, and Peeler said he came with a mission.
“When we walk through those white lines, I want everyone to know who we are,” Peeler said.
So far, the Rebels are making their case for recognition exceptionally well, with 918 yards and nine touchdowns through the air in just two games.
On his first day on the job, Peeler introduced the concept of awarding the belt to a new champion every week. The competition has created some serious motivation for his very young group of receivers. He said however, the champion is not crowned (or belted) exactly as one would expect.
“It could be anything,” Peeler said. “It could be a test, or playing Madden against each other double elimination or whatever.”
Peeler said brotherhood is important to him, and he has worked to instill that feeling in his corps of dangerous wideouts.
“We make it fun,” he said. “It’s our own fraternity within our team.”
Buying into head coach Matt Luke’s emphasis on family, Peeler plays the role of a player coach. He makes the experience of being a Rebel personal and keeps the limelight away from his own name.
The belt is a physical symbol of the players having earned something for themselves, and the freedom they are granted with it gives a sense of importance to the player, a sense of glory which might normally fall on a coach and a sense of personal and group success.
In a program rich with tradition, Peeler is making his mark. From day one, Peeler stamped his name into the headlines and into the hearts of his players. Though his approach is new, out-of-the-box and frankly quite strange, Peeler is assimilating well into the Ole Miss family. Only the future will tell if the wacky tradition will live on alongside the success of the “Nasty Wide Outs”.