OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) – With its new on-field mascot set to be introduced at Saturday’s annual Meet the Rebels Day, Ole Miss is pleased to announce the name of the Landshark will be Tony in honor of the first Rebel to throw “Fins Up,” Tony Fein.
Fans will have their chance to meet Tony, who will wear Fein’s jersey number 47, on Saturday. Meet The Rebels Day will begin at 1 p.m. CT at the Manning Center on campus, and admission is free.
New marks, social media accounts and a website related to the Landshark will also be released on Saturday.
Fein, who lettered for the Rebels in 2007 and 2008, will forever be remembered with the likes of Ole Miss Football because of his legacy on and off the football field. Before the Rebel family started throwing up the Landshark at every opportunity, a young man from Washington introduced it to them.
“When Tony was born, we knew he was created with a purpose,” said Cindy Daniels, mother of Tony Fein. “My son always had the ability unify people from all backgrounds, and it’s exciting for his legacy to be part of something that everyone can enjoy. He was my gentle giant, and it’s nice to see this is happening in his honor.”
Growing up in the small town of Port Orchard, Washington, football was everything to Fein, who was the ultimate team player. Playing on both sides of the ball, Fein starred at quarterback and linebacker for South Kitsap High School before making the decision to join the Army after his senior year rather than pursue an opportunity to play football in college. Turns out, there were bigger things in life than football for Fein.
Following graduation from high school, Fein served three and a half years in the United States Army, including one tour in Iraq. After his discharge, Fein enrolled in Scottsdale Community College in Arizona and became a top junior college prospect, earning first team All-American honors from the JC Grid-Wire and the NJCAA.
Ole Miss was looking to replace production at linebacker after the graduation of Patrick Willis. Enter Fein, who transferred to Ole Miss in 2007 at age 25, not your usual college newcomer. Fein came in as a true leader on the field, due in part to his service to his country.
Fein earned two letters while playing middle linebacker, seeing action in 24 games, including seven starts. He was credited with 136 total tackles, including eight for a loss, during his two seasons. Fein’s 84 tackles in 2007 ranked second on the team and 10th in the Southeastern Conference (7.6 per game), while his 52 tackles in 2008 ranked third on the team.
In the spring of 2008, Fein received the Pat Tillman Patriot Award by the Military Order of the Purple Heart to exhibit to Americans that some athletes can battle on the gridiron or on the battlefield.
Fein’s lasting legacy on Rebel Football goes way beyond his statistics. His Landshark rally cry made a home in the Ole Miss defensive unit during the 2008 season and is still alive today. It started in practice that season, when Fein sacked then Rebel quarterback Jevan Snead during a drill and quickly threw up the hand sign.
Spurring his defensive peers to smell blood in the water like a shark, Fein’s teammates like standouts Jerrell Powe and Peria Jerry adopted the Landshark persona, and the Rebel defense rose up to become one of the nation’s best, ranking fourth in the nation against the run in 2008. After four straight losing seasons, Ole Miss returned to prominence with a 9-4 record, and before long, the whole team and fan base were throwing “Fins Up.”
Fein’s inspirational story followed him to the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens and eventually to his untimely death on Oct. 6, 2009. His life was cut short, but he will forever be known as the original Landshark to the Ole Miss faithful.