More Than Football
Nov. 23, 2016
Jessica Poole, Ole Miss Athletic Communications
At a time of the year when most people are talking about College Football Playoff Rankings, bowl games, the start of the college basketball season and what’s on the menu for Thanksgiving, the Ole Miss football team took time out ahead of the Vanderbilt game to spend time with Javonte’ Hill, a Rebel fan living in the heart of Vanderbilt country.
Nine-year old Javonte’ wasn’t always an Ole Miss fan, but luckily his second grade teacher, Elizabeth White, changed that. Javonte was in Hill’s second grade class at KIPP: Kirkpatrick Elementary in Nashville and Hill, a 2011 Ole Miss graduate, decorated her classroom all Ole Miss and shared stories about her beloved Ole Miss Rebels to instill the importance of education and college to her students.
“I always made college a really big deal in my classroom,” White said. “I wanted to make sure my students learned what college was and why it was super important to go to college. And I did that through teaching them about my alma mater, which is Ole Miss.”
This happened to coincide with a time in which the Ole Miss athletic department was thriving, particularly the football team, and Javonte’ became hooked on the Rebels, watching games, hype videos and just about anything Ole Miss football he could get his hands on.
“So my door was decorated with Ole Miss. We would often watch YouTube videos of Ole Miss and we learned the fight song,” explained White. “I told them about what I studied when I was at Ole Miss and what I did when I was at Ole Miss. So Javonte’ kind of just fell in love with all things Ole Miss through that.”
Javonte’ hasn’t had the easiest road.
Javonte grew up in the Cayce Homes public housing in East Nashville, but his family has been chronically homeless for the better part of the last three years, sometimes that looks like sleeping on a couch or floor and sometimes it means, he, his mother and three siblings share a bed, but no matter the circumstances Javonte’ has continued to excel.
Elizabeth White, affectionately known as “Ms. Elizabeth” has helped Javonte with his love of all things Ole Miss and got him a signed jersey at Meet the Rebels in 2015 and has added several Ole Miss sweatshirts to his closet, but what she really wanted to do was get him to meet some of the players and coaches he idolizes.
As luck would have it, a chance encounter with a member of the Ole Miss Women’s Council made that possible.
Elizabeth wrote a letter telling Javonte’s story and it found its way into the hands of Chancellor Vitter who passed it along to Jennifer Saxon, assistant athletic director of student-athlete development.
Saxon put things in motion to arrange a meeting between Hill and the Ole Miss football team on the Friday night before the Vanderbilt game. Hill arrived at the team hotel and greeted the team as they got off the bus. As the team got settled, Hill did kid stuff, like playing in the indoor pool and sharing what players he wanted to meet.
Hill spent the evening with the team. Going through walk-thru, eating dinner and heading to chapel before heading home to rest up for the big game where he was treated to sideline access and even got to toss the ball around with freshman wide receiver, A.J. Brown, who quickly became Javonte’s favorite player.
Javonte wasn’t the only one effected by his time spent with the Rebels. Brown, along with running backs Akeem Judd and Eugene Brazley, spent time with Hill at dinner. Brown helped Hill fix his dinner plate, while they all laughed, traded stories and genuinely enjoyed each other’s company.
Hill also made fast friends with Coach Freeze and several other members of the coaching staff. While Hill had the time of his life with the football players and staff, he also reminded them of what’s important during a time when its easy to get caught up in football scores, wins and losses.
The Rebels might not have won the football game, but they won in so many other ways that day.
For 48 hours, Javonte Hill was a little boy meeting his favorite football coach and playing catch with his favorite players. He didn’t have to worry about where he was going to sleep and that’s a much bigger victory than the outcome or any score on a scoreboard.
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