GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - "This is really almost a Cinderella story."
"I never dreamed (of this), but looking back?"
Hardly anyone could have seen it coming. Sure, he excelled as an Admiral...
"Matt Luke is one of the best offensive lineman I've ever coached," said Ronnie Cuevas, who was the head coach of Gulfport during Luke's playing days. "He's the smartest offensive lineman I've ever coached."
"In my experience in coaching, about 90 percent of your best coaches are over-achievers," said Bobby Hall, who coached Luke during the 1995 Mississippi / Alabama All-Star game. "He was a big-time over-achiever."
But could anyone have predicted this from the kid from Gulfport? Just days before leaving home for Ole Miss, Matt Luke made his long-time friend a promise.
"(I remember) sitting on the golf course at 1 in the morning," Ricky Hasty said. "(He was) saying that one day he wanted to play in the NFL, and he wanted to be the head coach at Ole Miss one day. I knew then that he would be, I really did."
22 years later? That dream became reality, as the Rebels officially introduced Luke as the permanent head coach earlier today.
"To know that somebody you know actually climbed that ladder, got to that top rung and reached for the star?" Hasty said. "That was their dream job, and they got it? I couldn't be prouder."
Luke now represents the Coast - permanently, not just on an interim basis anymore - on one of college football's biggest stages.
"It just makes me so proud," Cuevas said. "From where he's gone, he's made the city of Gulfport very proud. He's not only a great football coach, but he's a great human being."
Luke led the Rebels to a 6-6 campaign during his interim coaching tenure.
"Nick Saban couldn't have gone and won six games like that, I don't think so," said Hasty, a proud Alabama fan. "I'm a Rebel fan too, now."
Some Ole Miss fans may have preferred a different direction than Luke, a quote-unquote "splashy hire."
"But if you don't give the man a chance, then how do you know?" Hasty said. "He may be the next Vaught. His name may be on that stadium one day. We'd sure like to see that, wouldn't we?""
"I know this. If I had a son, I'd want my son playing for him," said Cuevas, a former Mississippi State football player. "Even if it's Ole Miss!"
"You think about a guy that walked on at Ole Miss, and then for him to actually become an assistant coach there, and now become a head coach, wow," Hall said. "Someone needs to write a book about this."