With training camp underway in Oxford, operations around the Manning Center should look relatively normal as the Ole Miss football program has become the first in all of college football to hit the 100% benchmark for vaccinations.
Entering his second year at the helm of the program, Lane Kiffin detailed that the 240 people within the program—players, coaches and staff members—have been vaccinated.
During a press conference after the team’s second day of practice, Kiffin discussed how the team got to this point after it was reported around the time of SEC Media Days that there was plenty of work left to be done on the vaccine front.
“That was a lot of work,” he said. “A lot of different conversations. Sometimes, these are kids. Sometimes it was just not conversations with them. They were okay with it, but it would be a parent or a relative that wasn’t. We didn’t get to 100 percent until right towards the end. I just think as it got closer too, kids saw the reasons that everyone else was doing it for their team. I don’t want to get into a big argument about what’s right and wrong, but I think it’s irresponsible not to. I know I’ll be criticized for that but I think it is, being a college a football player. This is different than a normal job. You’re coming in, you’re near these guys, you’re impacting people’s ability to play the games on certain weekends and getting shut down. This is not a normal job where you can just stay at home and zoom in on Saturday. A little bit different.”
In addition to the health benefits of getting vaccinated, Kiffin also stressed that it allows the team to, hopefully, avoid COVID-related interruptions during the upcoming campaign.
“I think as we got closer for kids to communicate with them and the importance of it, also the rules. Just making sure that they understood that if you’re not vaccinated and you’re a close contact you could do all this work, weight room, playbook, practice, everything and could show up a close contact and miss a game. If you have the shot and you’re a close contact, you’re not. It’s not just getting it; it’s losing time otherwise,” he said.
By reaching this threshold, the Rebels will likely avoid a majority of COVID-19 protocols, including daily testing and social distancing requirements at practices and in team meetings.
With the entire Ole Miss football program vaccinated, Kiffin hopes that it doesn’t stop there.
“It took a while to get to that point and I think it’s really neat and it’s a really good message to the state and other people, do what you emphasize,” he said.
At just over 35%, Mississippi’s vaccination rate ranks among the lowest in the country—just slightly higher than Alabama.
On the field, the Rebels return All-SEC quarterback Matt Corral and plenty of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, but defense is where Ole Miss struggled in 2020 and will hope to see an improvement in year two under co-defensive coordinators D.J. Durkin and Chris Partridge.
Ole Miss kicks off the 2021 season in Atlanta against Louisville in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic on September 6th.
Watch Kiffin’s press conference below: