Lane Kiffin Loves Ole Miss, But Says Kids At FAU ‘Changed Him’

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Has Joey Freshwater become Coach Bombay? Lane Kiffin, the unpredictable yet offensively brilliant Ole Miss football coach, recently said that his time at FAU changed him in positive ways.

After bouncing around high-profile jobs as the football wunderkind of his generation, Kiffin eventually came crashing back to Earth, and was sentenced to three years of community service in Boca Raton turning mid-major talent into big game winners. Bingo nights replaced the Bama bar scene as Freshwater morphed slowly into the reputable leader of FAU and its ‘mighty’ misfits.

“Our first season, we won 11 games, won a (conference) championship, won a bowl game,” Kiffin said of his time coaching Florida Atlantic. “The seniors had never won more than three games in a year. And most of those guys weren’t going to the NFL, which was different than places I’d been at.

“I think that really changed me, seeing the players, seeing the excitement – it didn’t matter that there were only 8,000 people at a game or something – when they won. I think that was a big part of it, kind of the wholesomeness of the game.”

To hear Kiffin wax poetic about his time in Conference USA actually really soothes this long-suffering Ole Miss alum. During my tenure in Oxford, LSU coach Ed Orgeron was leading a lifeless Brent Shaeffer attack, and now fifteen years later, Coach O is a full-blown celebrity with a National Championship and a lifetime supply of fried gator tail. Maybe a dash of failure and a few years in the woods finding yourself is what it takes to be a successful coach. If Kiffin were to ever win a Natty at Ole Miss, I can’t imagine how much chicken-on-a-stick Chevron would give him after a long night at the Library.

But at 46, maybe Kiffin really has put his devious ways to bed once and for all. For years, he was like Blake Lively’s character in The Town—pure sex appeal and insanity all wrapped up in one. You’re going to have fun, sure, but the comedown is going to be brutal. Knoxville faithful got burned in early 2010 when Kiffin bolted for Southern Cal, and there were even rumors of him testing the vacancy waters after his first year as a Rebel. He’s still in Mississippi for now, so I’m just going to pour a drink and enjoy the evening. Whether he tells me he loves me or rolls me for my watch in the middle of the night, the story in the morning will still be epic regardless.

Lane Kiffin
(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Oxford obviously feels the same way, as reports of Lane Train mania begin to trickle in. According to senior center Ben Brown, “Everyone is completely bought in right now.”

“Guys are excited to be here, excited to play for this brand of Ole Miss football,” Brown said. “Tough and physical and scoring a lot of points.”

The Rebels bring back eighteen offensive and defensive starters, including quarterback Matt Corral, who showed signs of brilliance during last fall’s 5-5 campaign.

The only person who really knows what Lane Kiffin is thinking is the man himself, but arguably for the first time in his career, he’s mixing in a healthy amount of sweetness to accompany his deadpan wit. Whether or not he’s turned a corner remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: a full Vaught-Hemingway will be a lot of fun this fall.

Written by TK Sanders

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