November 26, 2013 9:34:44 AM
An Egg Bowl tradition was born Monday in the cold and rain.
Winding through pine trees and the cotton fields lining Mississippi Highways 9 and 82, Army ROTC cadets from Ole Miss and Mississippi State carried Thursday's game ball from Oxford to Starkville.
The 98.1-mile journey -- dubbed The Egg Bowl Run -- began at 5 a.m. Monday. Ole Miss cadets departed on foot from the steps of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Their destination: Calhoun City. There, they met MSU cadets and handed the pigskin off. A local crowd cheered them on and then MSU's cadets headed toward Starkville.
By 8:45 p.m. the ball had crossed the threshold of the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex and was in the hands of Bulldog Head Coach Dan Mullen.
Cadets braved temperatures near to 30 degrees and a steady rain throughout the day. Operations Officer for MSU's Army ROTC Lt. Colonel Michael Hunter has been with the organization for two years, and admitted that seeing his cadets push through the elements meant a lot to him.
"I kept telling them, think about George Washington crossing 'the Delaware.' This is nothing," he said. "As an instructor, we are always looking for those teachable moments, and this worked perfectly."
Hunter also said he felt like the Egg Bowl Run was a simple way to focus on what Mississippi State and Ole Miss can do as a unit, when they work together and not just through a heated rivalry on a football field.
"When it comes to this game, there is so much talk about the rivalry and the differences in our schools," Hunter said. "We thought this would be a good way to bring two schools, the two ROTC programs, together and work towards something special."
Cadets carrying the ball ran in three to four mile increments, flanked in the front and back by law enforcement and a van carrying other cadets ready to tote the load.
John-David Polk, of Jackson, was among the Mississippi State cadets to meet the cadets from Ole Miss in Calhoun City's town square.
Polk, alternating with a team of about nine others, completed a 25-mile leg from Calhoun City to Eupora.
A life-long Bulldog fan, Polk said he was honored to be a part of the inaugural event. He hopes it will flourish in coming years.
"I am a younger guy, a sophomore," Polk said. "So my goal is to help take this tradition and really help boost its notoriety, make it something that the whole state can look forward to."