BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Matt Luke era is underway. The former Gulfport Admirals linebacker and center held his first news conference in Oxford on Monday afternoon and he was emotional.
I covered Luke and his brother, Tom, when they played at Gulfport High and later at Ole Miss. Matt was a leader for the Admirals and a leader for the Rebels when he played center for head coach Billy Brewer.
He learned the tricks of the trade under Brewer and former Ole Miss head coach David Cutcliffe and the past five years under Freeze. On Monday, after serving the past five years as the Rebels Associate Head Coach , Luke displayed his love for Ole Miss.
"It's more important now then ever that Rebel Nation stands together, "said Luke. "It reminds me of 1989 when Chucky Mullins said...it's time! It is time. It's time for Ole Miss and Rebel Nation to move forward together. I am honored to be the head coach at Ole Miss. It's your university. It's my university. It's our university. I cannot wait to walk down that tunnel September 2nd."
The Rebels open the 2017 season in Oxford hosting South Alabama. When asked what he and Hugh Freeze discussed when Freeze met with him on Thursday following Freeze's resignation Luke said, "We talked briefly. He just told me to be myself."
Luke has has high expectations. He said he wants to put a product on the field that plays with passion, that plays with energy and he expects to put a product on the field that all Ole Miss fans will be proud of. He said the team will take it one game at a time and one practice at a time.
Will there be any staff changes? Luke said, "The staff is going to remain intact. Offense and defense will be the same. Ninety-five percent of everything is going to stay the same, but I plan on bringing my passion and my energy along with it."
He added, "It's a dream of mine. I feel like it's something I've been preparing my whole life for. I'm grateful to Ross (Bjork) for the opportunity and I'm grateful for the players. I'm just excited to take it one game at a time."
Luke did say he's in the process of hiring an offensive line coach so he can concentrate on his head coaching duties. He also announced that Wesley McGriff will be the Rebels Associate Head Coach. He said, "McGriff's passion and energy is contagious. He's a proven leader of young men and what he did with our defense this spring was phenomenal."
I wish Matt Luke all the best. Most observers believe Ole Miss will go in a different direction and will hire a bigger name coach to lead the Rebels in 2018.
However, if Luke can win and keep the Rebels moving forward under difficult times, he could win the job and take away the interim title. It won't be easy and Luke knows that. He also knows dedication in practice and starting off the season on a winning note will build momentum.
He has received a golden opportunity and if anyone can make the most out of it...it's Matt Luke!