The beautiful 10-acre Grove in Oxford is a tailgaters’ paradise. Oxford is the home of the Ole Miss Rebels and arguably the greatest tailgating tradition in all of sports.
A permanent fixture in the Grove is a brick pathway and arch called the Walk of Champions.
Coach Billy Brewer started the Walk of Champions in 1985 when he and his team walked the same route through the Grove each Saturday for a home game.
According to Ole Miss Sports, in the fall of 1998 the Walk of Champions arch was erected on the east side of the Grove where the players began their walk. The arch was dedicated to the 1962 Rebel football team, which were 10-0 undefeated.
The Walk of Champions is a special place for Sean Rawlings, the starting offensive tackle for the Rebels.
“I used to sit in the Grove with my family and watch the players walk through when I was just a little kid,” he said. “Ever since then, it was my childhood dream to be one of those players high-fiving all the fans.”
Rawlings, the 6’4, 290 lbs. lineman, is a sophomore at the University of Mississippi. The Madison, Mississippi, native is pursing a business degree.
He said walking under the arch and through the Grove with nearly 2,500 tents erected on game day is exciting.
“Rolling up on that bus and just looking out the window at all the people will give you chills,” he said. “Oxford is such a special place, and this is one of the things that makes us so unique.
“The Walk of Champions is one of the coolest things in the world,” he said. “There is nothing like it, and the adrenaline rush you get is something that cannot be compared to anything else.”
Years ago, visitors could park vehicles in the Grove, but in 1991, they were banned. The Grove and the Walk of Champions are something you’ll find only in Oxford.
Ben Still, the starting center for the Rebels, had similar feelings about the Walk of Champions and the Grove.
“I grew up a huge Ole Miss fan,” he said. “Being from Memphis, I spent a lot of time in the Grove as a kid. Walking down that brick path on game day is what gets me fired up before the game.”
Still is a senior and in his final year playing for Coach Freeze. He believes Oxford is a unique and special place.
“I have been to plenty of other tailgates at different school throughout the SEC, and nothing comes close to this,” he said. “There is no comparison to Oxford and our game day traditions.”
With fan numbers nearing 100,000 on certain game weekends, some people view tailgating as a religious experience.
Cossar Morgan, a junior finance major from Jackson, has been tailgating in the Grove with his family since he was 3.
“My family comes up from Jackson every home game to tailgate at our tent,” he said. “For my family and many others, it is basically a holiday, and it’s practiced religiously.”
Morgan’s family has a variety of food, drinks, chairs and TVs in their tent. They welcome family members and guests who stop in.
“When people think of Ole Miss, three things come to mind – football, tradition and the Grove,” Morgan said. “Nothing is more exciting than gathering around and watching the players walk down the Walk of Champions.”