On Wednesday night, Stefano Subauste stepped up to the line of scrimmage with one goal in mind: find the endzone. It was the first night of intramural practice for the Ole Miss Special Olympics team and Subauste, with long, brown hair tucked behind his ears, wouldn’t be stopped from scoring. He caught a screen pass, zig-zagged past two defenders and found 30 yards of green space ahead of him. Touchdown.
The 50 or so people gathered around the field erupted in celebration. Subauste, who calls himself an unofficial member of the football team’s nWo, chest-bumped the nearest teammate he could find.
“WooPow!” he exclaimed.
On Saturday night, Subauste will again have a field of green grass all to himself; except this time, he won’t be looking for the endzone. In front of 60,000 fans, he’ll be coronated as the university’s Mr. Ole Miss, the highest title campus bestows on a male student.
Hollingsworth Field during halftime is not an unfamiliar territory for Subauste. Seven times a year, he and the rest of the Pride of the South band command the 120 yards of field for their halftime performance. Since he’s being honored, he can’t play with the band. So they’re honoring him — their most famous member and a mini-celebrity on campus.
The band will play an arrangement of his favorite song, “Hey Jude” by The Beatles, and after being recognized for as Mr. Ole Miss, Subauste will lead the band in doing so.
Subauste grew up in Madison, Mississippi. He’s been an Ole Miss fan for as long as he can remember, and that’s reflected in his astonishingly precise memory of Ole Miss football statistics.
The Saturday after his runoff victory, Subauste posted a video to his Facebook campaign account showing him rattling off obscure Ole Miss football scores, spanning years, head coaches and quarterbacks.
“What was the score of the Ole Miss/Arkansas game in 2001?” the interviewer asked.
Without hesitation, Subauste responded: “Arkansas 58, Ole Miss 56. Seven overtimes.”
When Subauste arrived at The Daily Mississippian offices for interviews and portrait photos, members of the staff wanted to test his knowledge in person.
Someone asked, “What was the score of the Ole Miss/Jacksonville State game in 2011?”
He responded: “Wrong answer, that was 2010. Jacksonville State 49, Ole Miss 48 in double overtime.”
By this time, a small crowd of staffers had gathered around to witness Subauste’s mind-blowing cognitive recall. Staff started to hurl non-Ole Miss football questions, and without hesitation, he produced exact scores.
Bo Cotten, a fellow trombone player and close friend of Subauste, confirmed that his ability to recall Ole Miss football scores is limitless.
“I’ve never met anyone who knows more about Ole Miss sports (until I met him),” he said.
Cotten was one of Subauste’s friends who encouraged him to run for Mr. Ole Miss.
“He really likes to get to know people, and that’s actually how the campaign thing got started,” Cotten said. “He was always in the middle of the crowd, and he’d always have five or six stickers on. He told me over the summer, ‘I hope one of my friends runs so I can get a chance to campaign and get to know people.’ So that’s when we told him, ‘you need to run.’”
So he did.
Subauste is a fixture of campaign season at Ole Miss. For two weeks in the fall and spring each year, his presence on both Business Row and outside of the Lyceum for results announcements is unmistakable. For most, campaign season is a period where students avoid Business Row like the plague, afraid of being approached with a sticker and a reminder to vote. However, for Subauste, it’s like Christmas.
“Campaigns are opportunities to get to really know people,” Subauste said. In 2017, Subauste approached Scout Treadwell, an Ole Miss senior who, at the time, was campaigning for sophomore maid. He asked Treadwell if he could help her campaign. With Subauste’s support, Treadwell won her election, and the pair became close friends. They have a weekly lunch date at Raising Canes in The Pavilion that they’ve only infrequently missed for over two years now.
If you’re a friend of Stefano’s, it’s likely you’ve received one of his patented back-breaking, yet comforting, hugs. Everyone interviewed for this story mentioned Stefano’s hugs. “Everyone shows their appreciation for people in different ways. The physical act of giving a hug is really kind of comforting,” Treadwell said. “You’re supposed to have 20 positive touches a day, but I think that if you get one hug from Stefano, your positive touches are good for the day, that counts as all of them.”
If Subauste could trade places with anyone for a day, it’d be Josh Nichols from the television show Drake and Josh. “He’s very smart, very sane, usually has a good moral compass, very funny — and he likes to hug,” Subauste said. The last descriptor is the most important.
“Hugging makes you feel great, makes you feel comfortable and just makes you feel loved and draws you closer to people,” he said.
Irrespective of who you are, a hug is in store from Subauste, and it’s emblematic of his platform. Subauste campaigned on the idea of inclusion.
“I wanted to make a difference on this campus with the students’ best interests at heart, and I believe in the inclusion of everybody on campus,” he said. “It means we should be including everyone regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.”
His campaign partnered with Oxford United Way and is hosting a pep rally the Friday before the Ole Miss/LSU football game in November to raise money for their cause.
Running for a campus-wide position is a formidable task. For two weeks straight, you’re in the public sphere; free time is spent on Business Row, speaking to various campus groups and handing out stickers. It’s an even more daunting task when the candidate is non-Greek, because Greek organizations can financially support their preferred candidate and have large networks of members to use as campaign volunteers.
Subauste is non-Greek. He crowd-funded his campaign and built a grassroots network of campaign volunteers to hand out stickers and campaign in front of his sign. Six people ran for Mr. Ole Miss, and four of them were members of Greek organizations. Subauste defeated the field, receiving over 58% of the 5862 votes cast in the runoff election. He is the first non-Greek candidate to be elected as Mr. Ole Miss since the position was re-named from Colonel Reb in 2012.
“I wanted to inspire everybody that you don’t have to be a Greek student to win Mr. Ole Miss — just be yourself,” Subauste said.
Stefano will take the field at halftime this Saturday during the Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt game that is set to start at 6:30 p.m.