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Ole Miss’ Caden Davis reminds us why the sport is still called FOOTball

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Caden Davis was the SEC Special Teams Player of the for his work against Tulane. (Courtesy Athletics)

NEW ORLEANS — Nearly every we watch leaves us with some sort of lasting impression. So here's what I will remember most about Ole Miss's 37-20 victory over Tulane, other than the fact that that the final score was absolutely no indication at all of the intense competition that took place on a steamy New Orleans afternoon:

Ole Miss kicker Caden Davis is what I will remember.

Rick Cleveland

A kicker, you say?

Yes, but what a kicker…

Davis, a senior transfer from A&M, showed us once again what a marvelous weapon an extraordinary kicker can be. He was, most assuredly, the Rebels' MVP.

Davis reminded this long-time observer of another college placekicker from half a century ago, the one named Ray Guy, who was known mainly as a punter but could kick a football from here to next week.

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So can Davis. It wasn't just that Davis made all three of his field goals, the game-clinching 56-yarder. It wasn't just that he made all four of his extra point kicks. And it wasn't just that he consistently kicked off through the end zones on his kickoffs. No, it was more the majestic height on all his kicks that floored me. Granted, Tulane's smallish Yulman Stadium isn't the tallest around, but Davis's kickoff soared high above the stadium.

We see line- kickoffs all the time that carry into — and sometimes through — the end zone, but rarely do we see kickoffs that soar seemingly into the clouds, above the stadium, and still go through the end zone. In Davis' case, at least one kickoff sailed through the goal post uprights and several rows up into the end zone seating.

Let's put it this say: If Bum Phillips were still around, he would have that football checked for helium.

Again, Guy was known primarily for his punting, but as a straight-on, toes-first kicker, he was remarkable. He, too, got amazing height on his kickoffs, which nearly always carried through the end zones. He once kicked a 61-yard field goal in a Utah snowstorm. I saw him hit 70-yard field goals in warmups.

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Davis has that kind of range as well. He hit one from 67 yards Saturday in pregame warmups. He says he has hit from 76 yards in practice. The ball just sort of explodes off his foot.

Still, Lane Kiffin was faced with a perplexing with two minutes remaining in the game. Ole Miss led 27-20 and faced fourth and one at the Tulane 34. Kiffin sent in Davis to try a 51-yard field goal. But then Ole Miss was called for a false start, making it a 56-yard try. Kiffin left Davis in, even though a miss would have given Tulane excellent field position and plenty of time to try to tie or win the game.

As it was, Davis made the kick with room to spare and the game was essentially over. For his efforts, Davis was named the Southeastern Conference Special Teams Player of the Week.

Now then, you, as I, might have wondered: Who is this Caden Davis? Wasn't Caden Costa, sensational as a freshman, supposed to return after a year's absence to be the Rebels' kicker?

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Well, Davis won the job, kicking in the preseason just as he did on Saturday. Davis couldn't get on the field for field goals at A&M, kicking behind Randy Bond, who was excellent last year for the Aggies. Interestingly, Bond has missed two of five field goals through two this year, while Davis has made all four of his kicks for the Rebels.

A equally good example of how important a kicker can be might have the next day in New Orleans, when the Saints began their season with a a 16-15 victory over Tennessee in what might best be described as a field goal fiesta. Rookie Blake Grupe made all three of his field goal attempts and the game's only extra point. Each of Grupe's kicks were center-cut and validated the Saints' decision to keep him and let go of seven-year veteran Will Lutz, who now kicks for ex-Saints coach Sean Payton.

While Grupe, who looks like a water boy who just dressed out, was every kick for the Saints, Lutz was missing one of his two in the Broncos' opener. The Saints won at least partly because of Grupe's kicking. The Broncos lost at least partly because of Lutz's kicking.

We are only two games into a marathon season, but already we have received a prime example of why the game is called FOOTball. Kicking is still a huge part of it.

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This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Mississippi Today

On this day in 1909

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mississippitoday.org – Jerry Mitchell – 2024-06-22 07:00:00

JUNE 22, 1909

Katherine Dunham Credit: Wikipedia

Esteemed choreographer, activist and educator Katherine Dunham was born in Joliet, Illinois. For more than 30 years, she directed the Katherine Dunham Dance Company, the only self-supported black dance company in America at the time. 

She was often called the “Mother of Black Dance.” In the 1940s, Dunham's troupe traveled across America, even performing in the segregated South. After discovering that African Americans were not to buy tickets to one of her shows, she refused to perform. 

She received a standing ovation after a performance in Louisville, Kentucky, but the performance she made an announcement that she would never perform there again because the would not allow black and white people to sit next to each other. She also expressed a hope that this would one day change.

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This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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Mississippi Today

Pete Buttigieg and Bennie Thompson unveil $20 million investment in Jackson roadway

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mississippitoday.org – Violet Jira and Simeon Gates – 2024-06-21 15:07:12

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson broke ground Friday on a $20 million renovation of Medgar Evers Boulevard in .

The boulevard, named for civil rights leader Medgar Evers, is in a of disrepair. The roadway, which connects north Jackson to Interstate 220, is a mass of potholes and patched pavement flanked by shuttered businesses, largely due to lapses in maintenance.

“This is a that is so important to rebuilding and reconnecting Jackson, Mississippi,” Central District Transportation Commissioner Willie Simmons said during remarks. “If you look at our interstate system, you'll see a lot of disconnect. But here, this project is going to be one of those projects that is going to reconnect Jackson and create .”

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Carolyn Wells grew up in the neighborhood along Medgar Evers Boulevard, and was neighbors with the Medgar and Myrlie Evers . While she is happy to celebrate Evers' legacy, she feels the street is in desperate need of repairs.

“Our street is horrible to me,” she said. 

Architect Hibbett Neel (second left) discusses a rendering of the future Medgar Evers Boulevard to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (left), Central District Transportation Commissioner Willie Simmons (center) and Reena Evers-Everette, daughter of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, Friday, June 21, 2024 in Jackson. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

Wells and other frequently call the city for problems like sinkholes and uneven roads. She hopes the new street can bring much-needed improvements. Local residents and officials hope the improvements will bring the corridor back to life and drive economic prosperity in the area. 

In 2021, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Jackson what Buttigieg called a ‘highly competitive' $20 million grant to rebuild the boulevard. The money from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act which signed into law in 2021. 

Thompson, the Democratic 2nd District congressman and Republican Sen. Roger Wicker are the only members of Mississippi's delegation to vote in favor of the legislation. 

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Other active projects in Mississippi include modernization of an air traffic control tower at Golden Triangle Regional airport in Columbus and restoration of rail service between the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Alabama and that was disrupted after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

On the 60th anniversary of the slayings of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia and just over 61 years after Medgar Evers was assassinated in his driveway, Thompson and Buttigieg connected the new roadway to the larger history of civil rights activism in Mississippi.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (second left) greets Reena Evers-Everette, daughter of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, at her former home, now the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument, Friday, June 21, 2024 in Jackson. Central District Transportation Commissioner Willie Simmons (left) and Congressman Benny Thompson (center), also toured the Evers National Monument. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

“As we bear the moral weight of our inheritance, it feels a little bit strange to be talking about street lights and ports and highway . And yet, part of why we're doing this work is because we know that even the most superficial examination of the legacy of the civil rights movement reminds us of the relationship between transportation and equality…,” Buttigieg said. “Homer Plessy sat in the white car of the East Louisiana Railroad. Medgar Evers called for the boycott of gas stations that wouldn't allow black customers to use their facilities. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, of course, to a white man on the Montgomery bus. Transportation is so elemental to all of our lives that disparities in access to transportation affect everything else.”

In addition to the ground-breaking ceremony at Myrlie's Garden, named for Medgar Evers' wife, Buttigieg and Thompson took a tour with Reena Evers, the couple's daughter, of the Evers home. 

In a press conference, Thompson called the new project a “down payment.” He said that these improvements were part of repairing the years of neglect and inequality that created the community's current issues. 

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“We don't plan to overburden the citizens who live on the street, but you've got to preserve that legacy,” Thompson told Mississippi Today. “As a person who felt Medgar Evers' influence, I'd be heartbroken if we didn't keep that legacy alive.”

The new roadway will reconnect the street with other parts of Jackson, along with several improvements. It will have more sidewalks and street lights, better sewer lines, and make travel in the area easier and safer. Officials were unable to provide an estimate for when the project would be complete. 

“Good transportation can lead directly to economic opportunity. In the same way that lack of transportation can cut people off from opportunity,” Buttigieg told Mississippi Today. “We're here to make sure that transportation connects. That it doesn't divide.” 

The visit marked Buttigieg's first visit to Mississippi, and is part of a two-day tour of the state that included stops in places like Greenville, Rosedale and Jackson. 

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This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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Mississippi Today

On this day in 1964

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mississippitoday.org – Jerry Mitchell – 2024-06-21 07:00:00

JUNE 21, 1964

A group of more than 20 Klansmen killed three workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, south of Philadelphia, Mississippi. 

The three had as a part of Summer to register Black voters and work in the civil rights movement. Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers called on Klansmen to repel this “communist invasion” by counterattacking the movement at night: 

“Any personal attacks on the enemy should be carefully planned to include only the leaders and prime white collaborators of the enemy forces,” he said.

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The trio came to Neshoba County to investigate the KKK's burning of a Black church and the beatings of members. On their return to Meridian, Neshoba County Deputy Cecil Price jailed the trio and then released them into the hands of the waiting Klansmen who chased them down, executed them and buried their bodies 15 feet down in an earthen dam. 

Hundreds of FBI agents came to investigate the case, which the agency called “Mississippi Burning,” or MIBURN for short. Forty-four days later, agents found their bodies. In a 1967 federal trial, seven men were convicted on conspiracy charges with none serving more than six years in prison. Nobody was ever tried for murder until 2005 when Edgar Ray Killen was convicted of orchestrating the trio's slayings. The conviction took place on the 41st anniversary of the killings.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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