STARKVILLE, Miss.--Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi may be fierce rivals on the gridiron, but the two institutions happily came together--literally--for a few moments this week in Calhoun City.
To add more fanfare to annual Egg Bowl traditions, the first Egg Bowl Run began Monday [Nov. 25] on the Ole Miss campus as a lead-up to the nationally televised Thursday night [the 28th ] football game between the two Southeastern Conference rivals at MSU's Davis Wade Stadium.
All told, the run by Bulldog and Rebel battalion teams covered more than 90 miles.
UM ROTC cadets set off about 5 a.m. from the Oxford campus with the game ball in hand and headed down State Highway 9 toward Calhoun City. At noon, they handed over the pigskin--earlier autographed by head football coach Hugh Freeze--to their MSU counterparts waiting at the city's historic downtown square.
The Bulldog runners then continued south down the highway before turning on to U.S. Highway 82 at Eupora and heading east toward the Starkville campus. Arriving around 8:30 p.m. at the new Leo Seal Football Complex, they met MSU head coach Dan Mullen and got his signature.
To be televised by ESPN, the final regular-season game for both schools kicks off at 6:30 p.m.
In addition to the team's coaches, the ball is being autographed by MSU President Mark E. Keenum and UM Chancellor Dan Jones, as well a professor of military science at each institution.
The much-travelled ball will eventually join other sports memorabilia being auctioned in May by the Dixie Thunder Run Assn., according to Maj. Michael Hunter, MSU operations officer.
Hunter said auction proceeds will go to support Operation First Response.
The association describes itself as "soldiers helping soldiers," and Operation First Response works "to serve all branches of our nation's wounded heroes/disabled veterans and their families with personal and financial needs."
Hunter said he felt MSU cadets involved took something very positive from the experience.
"I think they enjoyed getting to see the other cadets from Ole Miss and be part of something that was not competitive; it was something we were together in," he observed.
"I know they enjoyed seeing people along the route," he continued. "As they were running, people would come out of their houses, wave and give the 'Go Dogs' (chant)."
Hunter, an MSU alumnus, also said many Bulldog supporters along the way came out with another tradition in hand. "They'd ring cowbells and the cadets enjoyed that," he added.
For more information about the 2013 Egg Bowl, visit www.hailstate.com.