HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - "At the end of the day, I want those guys when they're 45-years old to stop by when I'm fishing in Bovina and come by and say, 'Hey, I want to see Coach Hop, see what he's up to today,'" said Southern Miss head coach Jay Hopson at media day in August.
After bringing a bowl win back to Hattiesburg, you may very well find Hopson fishing in Bovina over the Holidays. But back in August, Hopson was worried about leading the Golden Eagles to success in his first season as the head coach.
"I was like, if we get somebody that doesn't know Southern Miss and doesn't have that type of mindset of work ethic, then we're in trouble for next year," said Southern Miss senior defensive end Dylan Bradley. "But when they brought coach Hop[son] in, first game of the season he said, 'Let's go out here and beat an SEC team.' That had not been done in 17 years at Southern Miss. We went out and did that."
Beating an SEC team for the first time since 2000 is how the Hopson era kicked off. Although there were bumps along the way in this the first chapter of his Southern Miss story, Hopson's narrative to his team all along was to keep fighting.
The Golden Eagles responded, bouncing back from three straight losses to win their last two games and capture a bowl championship for the 11th time in school history.
"Coach Hop told us, 'You're not going to remember going out in New Orleans or doing whatever you do,'" said Southern Miss senior quarterback Nick Mullens. "'You're going to remember winning.' And he's 100 percent right. So, I'm very thankful for the emphasis on preparation that he gave us. It's awesome for Southern Miss that we got this bowl victory."
With year one under Hopson in the books, we'll have to wait and see what else is in store for he and the Golden Eagles. However, winning a bowl for the first time since 2011 isn't a bad start.
"I chose Southern Miss a while back," Hopson said. "It's a place that - you know, I'm a Golden Eagle. Black and gold runs through my veins. I've been here longer than any place I've ever been."