OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) - Ole Miss fans who came to the Manning Center for the annual Meet the Rebels Day were in for an extra treat, as the new Landshark on-field mascot, Tony, made his public debut on Saturday.
Long lines of fans waiting to get autographs from the football, rifle, soccer and volleyball teams all took notice when the lights dimmed and Tony made his entrance to applause amid pyrotechnics and smoke.
Tony is named and designed in homage of former Rebel Tony Fein, the originator of the “Fins Up” gesture for the initial Landshark defense in 2008. Like Fein, the new mascot will wear the number 47.
“In 2008, Fins Up was born, but after a few years it became part of every sport, every fan, every experience,” said Micah Ginn, Associate A.D. for Sports Productions and Creative Services. “It became second only to Hotty Toddy in terms of greetings between Ole Miss folks.
“Today’s unveiling is the culmination of a lot of thought and a lot of preparation and a lot of scrutiny of what we were trying to accomplish, and I really feel like we landed exactly where we were hoping to land.”
In addition to the teams in attendance, both the Rebel cheer team and the Rebelettes joined in on the fun with their new mascot partner.
“I’m so excited about having a mascot that our fan base will love,” said Ryan O’Connor, Spirit Squad Coordinator for Ole Miss Cheerleading. “He’s going to be able to actually do what college mascots should do. He’s going to be on the field pregame, and he’s going to have a big role on gameday. He’s going to be able to go to The Grove; he’s going to have a role there, too.”
In addition to the big news, fans were still enjoying time spent with the Rebel athletes and coaches, which included getting autographs, taking pictures, or even playing around on the artificial turf inside the Manning Center.
For soccer senior Marnie Merritt, she has enjoyed watching Meet the Rebels grow each year she has been at Ole Miss.
“It’s awesome,” Merritt said. “It’s grown and grown year after year, and the fact that the fans come out not only to see football, but to see soccer and volleyball and rifle is really cool. It’s an awesome experience to be a part of, and I’m very thankful that I’ve gotten to experience it five times.”
Volleyball senior Caroline Adams had similar sentiments.
“I’ve had so much fun at Meet the Rebels all these years,” Adams said. “I wish I could stay at Ole Miss forever and never graduate.”
First timers like Oxford residents Kristen and Adam Pate and their family enjoyed their time at Meet the Rebels, as well as the added bonus of being able to meet the new mascot.
“(Adam) was in line for the players,” Kristen Pate said. “But (their son, Eli), said, no, I just want to see Tony.”
The Rebel football team opens the season Sept. 1 at Texas Tech in Houston for a national TV tilt on ESPN at 11 a.m. CT, before coming home to host Southern Illinois on Sept. 8 at 3 p.m.
Rebel volleyball opens its regular season in Ames, Iowa, vs. Virginia and Iowa State on Aug. 24, before returning to Oxford to host Samford and Ohio State on Aug. 31. Ole Miss soccer, meanwhile, had its first exhibition last night vs. Central Arkansas (W, 3-0) and opens its regular season at home vs. Louisiana on Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. The Rebel rifle team opens its season on Sept. 29 at home vs. Jacksonville State.