The news from Ukraine does affect MC students / Chloe Newton

The “MC Bubble” can create a blinder to what is happening in the world beyond campus and the Clinton community. Homework, tests, extracurriculars, and weekend plans send students involuntarily down the rabbit hole of total Mississippi College immersion. For any college student, either at MC or at another university, it is easy to be roped into one’s immediate surroundings. Yet, some things call for students to look up for a second and to be aware of what is happening in the lives of individuals beyond campus, beyond Mississippi, and even beyond the United States.

Approximately 5,800 miles from campus, Ukrainian citizens have watched their lives and their country change because of the arrival of Russian troops on the eastern border. The slow rise of tension between Russia and Ukraine has been building for years, but most recently, Russia is threatened by Ukraine’s functioning democracy and possible admission into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). 

PC:; Caption: Russian troops surrounded the country of Ukraine and threatened to invade her at a moment’s notice. Countries of NATO are attempting to prevent this attack.

Dr. Antizzo, associate professor of history and political science, said, “It’s our policy that when communists are trying to topple a friendly democratic government, we will be there to help.”

While this issue is far away geographically, students from MC have been affected by this development. MC serves as a temporary home to several international students, four of whom are Ukrainian.

Volodymyr “Vova” Lushnikov, a sophomore interior design student, started studying at MC in the fall of 2020. Lushnikov came to MC with the intention to play on the university’s ping pong team. Though the program was cut, his scholarship was honored, and he continued to study with the university. Lushnikov’s hometown is the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv; his family still lives there today. Unlike many families, the Lushnikov family is not scared of Russia and her threats. Since 2011, Lushnikov and his parents have kept well-informed about government and politics. Lushnikov places trust in NATO and the United States to protect the country of Ukraine.

“I’m not scared [of Russia]. People can solve problems by diplomatic solutions. I’m sad though because there is no point in making a war between Russia and Ukraine. It’s crazy,” said Lushnikov.

PC: Chloe Newton; Caption: Vova Lushnikov, a sophomore from Kyiv, Ukraine, is not scared of the threats from Russia. He sees no benefit for Russia to make war with Ukraine and ultimately, the world.

Why does this issue that is taking place mainly on another continent matter to Americans, much less MC students? Dr. Antizzo puts it well.

He said, “We’ve always considered ourselves the champions of democracy. Are you willing to stand by while democracy is crushed and the world looks on?”

The United States is the most powerful nation in the world. Whether one believes it or not, the U.S. is also the freest nation. Because of America’s history with her assistance in the first and second World Wars, all other countries are looking to see what actions the U.S. will take in light of Russia’s provoking movement on the eastern border of Ukraine. 

“The burden of being the world’s policeman is a heavy load psychologically, militarily, and financially on the United States. If the United States gives up its role as a world leader, then somebody is going to step up and take it,” said Antizzo. 

The next two options to fill in the position of “world leader” would be Russia and China, both communist countries.

Zooming in closer to how this situation affects MC students, the application is a little more broad. The first application is most obviously prayer. Praying for protection and for the wisdom of leaders of NATO are among the best ways to pray. God has providentially brought this body of students together. The body is composed of students from all over the United States and from several other countries. Each individual possesses a unique story and life lessons. For international students, the culture they were brought up in is completely different from those raised in the U.S. These are stories to be shared if only someone was curious enough to ask. 

Mark 12:31 says, “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

God calls the believers on this campus to look outside of themselves and to love those around them. By asking international students more about themselves, not only can believers learn about them as individuals but also learn about their countries, who need the gospel of Jesus Christ just as much as Americans do.

Redeeming Love creates opportunities for gospel conversations / Chloe Newton

“My love isn’t a weapon, it’s a lifeline, reach out and take hold, and don’t let go.”

This quote is undoubtedly from a love story. Anyone could picture a young man speaking this to the love of his life. Yet, the love story this quote derives from is unorthodox. This love story is centered around a prostitute, which seems to be a paradox. However, the Bible and Francine River’s Redeeming Love would beg to differ. After 30 prolonged years of waiting, the well-known Christian romance novel finally debuted in movie theaters. 

Katya Blackwell, a junior from Hattiesburg, Miss., who has read Redeeming Love 15 times said, “I was really excited because I thought it was going to be almost word-for-word from the book.”

Because Redeeming Love was based on the book of Hosea in the Bible, it creates endless opportunities for Christians to share the gospel. Taking place in Paradise, Calif., during the gold rush of the 1850s, the loose interpretation of Hosea captures biblical themes incomprehensible to the world. But what a great way to start conversations for the Kingdom of God!

People love discussing their favorite films, scores, characters, and scenes. Films are in a sense a love language to modern society. Movies, like Redeeming Love, with a large focus on morals create opportunities for evangelical Christians to meet the culture where it is. 

Cass Harris, a freshman from Kimberly, Ala., said, “[Forgiveness] is not something that makes sense to people.” 

The biblical account of Hosea is a metaphor for the relationship between God and His unfaithful people. River’s characters Angel (Abigail Cowen) and Michael Hosea (Tom Lewis) represent the prophet, Hosea, and the prostitute, Gomer. While the book of Hosea is written exclusively from the perspective of the prophet, the movie swings back and forth between the perspectives of Angel and Michael.

PC: Universal; Caption: Angel (Abigail Cowen) and Michael (Tom Lewis) wake up for an early sunrise. Lewis slayed his first major role as Michael Hosea.

Lewis, having never starred in any other major films, used his eyes to capture his emotions unlike any other actor in the movie. His eyes reveal a clear story of longing, patience, disappointment, forgiveness, and a hint of jealousy (the righteous kind of course; he is a representation of God). Throughout the film, one motive depicted in the eyes of Michael remains constant. Love.

When Michael first lays eyes on Angel, after his marriage to her, and through each time that Angel unjustifiably runs away from the safety of his home, Michael’s love remains steadfast just like the love God has for His people. Besides love, themes of identity, forgiveness, and redemption seep through the story. 

Harris related heavily to Angel’s struggle with identity. 

Angel talked about how she would always be the same person and how she would never be anything more than a prostitute. She never saw herself as Michael’s wife or any of the things he told her that she was. In highschool, I thought I could never be anything else. But the Lord had something else.

These themes are clearly interwoven into the story. But in the special case of Redeeming Love, the question is not whether or not the themes were distinct but whether or not the film did the biblical symbolism justice. For a Christian, who has experienced the complete forgiveness and grace of God first hand, yes the symbolism is evident. However, for a nonbeliever, it was not so.

“To a non-believer, the movie just looks like another romance story. It wasn’t very clear that Michael was trying to portray God’s love and Angel as us being sinners,” said Blackwell.

PC: Chloe Newton; Caption: Katya Blackwell, junior, has read Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers 15 times. She was extremely excited to see the story come to life on the big screen.

Unlike most love stories, Redeeming Love carries more depth to it. Topics of prostitution, incest, and Hebefilia are discussed and insinuated. Viewers should proceed in caution when watching the film. Despite the PG-13 rating, the film contains two graphic scenes.

Some scenes are difficult to watch and are even more difficult to discuss. But the truth is, this world is broken and is filled with broken people. Stories like Redeeming Love reflect this truth. Truth the world doesn’t want to hear. But this film is an aid to Christians to share the hope of Jesus Christ to the world. It’s like God is handing His people the perfect opportunity to share the gospel. In addition, believers need to be reminded of Jesus and his grace. Sisters and brothers in Christ need to be spiritually fed too.

When Christians participate in watching movies like Redeeming Love, hearts and minds should be set on searching for the gospel. The apostle, Paul, tells believers in Colossae, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Col. 3:2, ESV, 2016)

Date Ideas in Light of Valentine’s Day / Chloe Newton

Photo: Chloe Newton Tori Hendren and Zack Myers enjoy anytime they can get with each other, including studying at Cups. They reminisce about their favorite dates and first date.

The winter haze has set in for many students on the campus of Mississippi College. Homework has picked up; tests have begun. Students burrow into the library and the Commons to stay warm and to study. However, motivation slows as students realize their next break isn’t until mid-March. 

Yet Valentine Day stands as a beacon of light to college students. It’s an excuse to stop studying and celebrate relationships, two things which students love to do. Couples either have been planning since last February or they are scrambling to find a restaurant that’s not Olive Garden. 

Among those students making their plans are Tori Hendren (a junior English Lit. major from Millington, Tenn.) and Zack Myers (a junior electrical engineering student from Dothan, Ala.). While the two students seem paradoxical because of their majors, their personalities compliment each other quite well. They finish each other’s sentences and laugh while reminiscing about the past three and a half months of dating.

“One of my favorite [dates] is when we walked around the Brick Streets and played Cornhole. Then we went and just got food afterwards,” said Hendren.

“No,” said Myers laughing at his partner’s harmless mistake,” We went to Salsa’s first. Then, we went to Dollar General and got stuff to paint. We went to a little courtyard area on the Brick Streets, and we followed Bob Ross.”

“It went terrible,” Hendren jokingly said. To clarify, Hendren was referring to their painting skills not the date.

Like many couples on the Mississippi College campus, Hendren and Myers have dug deep into their innovative sides to create fun yet affordable dates. While the Clinton area doesn’t supply the most fun activities for dates (yet), several places outside of the city possess the perfect atmospheres for couples and friends to enjoy.

First up, the Fat Cat Art Cafe in Flowood creates opportunities to get one’s hands dirty and to tap into one’s creative side. Anyone can throw a pot or paint a canvas. Painting pre-made pottery can cost as low as $1 and painting on a canvas costs $20. In order to throw or sculpt pottery, appointments are recommended. Each costs $25 per person. It is an additional $5 to paint thrown pottery. While a couple tries to master their inner Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in the iconic pottery scene from Ghost, the Fat Cat Art Cafe is littered with actual cats for the enjoyment of all. 

For the more active couple, Dance Applause Factory (DAF) and The Hangout might be a better fit (no pun intended) option. Old-souled couples and friends will enjoy DAF’s variety of dance classes. For the month of February, foxtrot (Mondays from 7-8pm), rumba (Thursdays from 7-8pm, and samba (Friday from 7-8pm) classes will be taught for couples to join. In addition, weekly dance parties, held on Friday nights from 8-10pm, are thrown. Each dancer must pay $10. These dance parties include ballroom, Latin, and swing dancing.

In contrast, for the couples and friend groups who love a good sweat, the rock walls at the Hangout are a great choice. Rather than traveling almost two hours to Red Bluff, the Hangout is conveniently located in Ridgeland. For $10, climbers get access to shoes, chalk, and the walls. However, the hours are limited from 6 to 8pm on Monday, Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. 

Valentine’s Day is notorious for being a holiday of last-minute gifts, and flowers are arguably the classiest gift to show love and appreciation. Greenbrook Flowers, a Jackson based florist, has operated since 1917. From daisies to chrysanthemums to violets and sunflowers (perfectly gifts for die hard Harry Styles fans), this florist will provide the perfect bouquet for any occasion. 

Among the top Valentine gifts are chocolates. Food is a love language to many college students.

“The smell of chocolate is something that’s really sensual and nostalgic. All of these things come to play in our memory and emotions and our mind. For me, chocolate equates something to joy,” said Emmie King, owner and operator of Nandy’s Candy in Jackson.

King’s mother, Nancy, opened the candy store in 1980 with the intention of spreading joy and love to the Jackson area through everyone’s favorite candies. The business is stocked with chocolate strawberries, candy apples, chocolate-filled heart boxes, jelly bellies, and gummy bears. There is something that fits everyone’s budget.

Though it is the shortest month in days, February is the longest month for a college student. February stands as the only month in the entire school year that does not have a break. Valentine’s Day supplements the long, dark days of studying with a bit of cheer. It takes focus off of homework and studying and replaces it with showing love and appreciation for others.

King said, “We all know that Valentine’s Day is the day of love. Winter is long and dark, and [Valentine’s Day] is a light.”

Softball Set for 2022 After Multiple Postseason Finishes / Jace Aymond

Photo: Avery Barnett delivers a pitch against the AUM Warhawks in the 2021 GSC Championship game. It was the first time the Lady Choctaws played in that game since the 2017 season.

For most teams, it is extremely tough to string together multiple “successful” seasons in a row, extending beyond the regular season. But for the Lady Choctaw softball team, they have done it year after year.

Since returning to the NCAA and being able to compete in the GSC tournament again in 2017, MC has made it to the postseason and competed in the regional tournament each year, with the infamous 2020 season as an asterisk due to COVID-19. 

Last year was no different. Although the Lady Choctaws, who finished 21-22 and a 14-14 GSC record, only finished as the sixth seed in the conference tournament, it was after the regular season where they shone their brightest.

An extra-inning win on Senior Day was the perfect way to transition into the Gulf South Conference tournament in Oxford, Alabama. On their way to the championship game, MC defeated both nationally ranked Alabama-Huntsville and Valdosta State, with a dominant 8-0 victory over West Georgia as well. Although powerhouse AUM stopped the Lady Choctaws short of a GSC title, they had done enough to send them to the NCAA South Regionals. Although it was an early exit in the regionals, the Blue and Gold are more than excited to get the 2022 season on the road. 

And on the road they will be, as the first 13 games are either away or neutral site games. With the season ahead of them now, junior pitcher Avery Barnett knows that there still are things that can be improved upon.

“We had a really good end to the season, but what I think we could’ve done better was have a regular season that goes a little bit more our way. That’s what I’m really excited about this year.”

Barnett also mentioned how a newer squad benefits them, saying, “We have a lot fewer people in numbers, but that makes us closer, and I think that’s what we were lacking in last year. So, I think having a better team dynamic in the regular season is going to help us out a lot.”

Along with Barnett, MC returns many key contributors, like McCall Lee, who was selected to the Preseason All-GSC team. The sophomore catcher from Brandon led the team last year in batting average at .388 on her first season as a Lady Choctaw. Her dominant season also saw her out front in hits, doubles, home runs, and RBIs. 

With MC tabbed to finish in sixth yet again in the preseason poll, they also bring back the likes of Jordan LaFosse, Rayne Minor, and the ever-dominant Avery Sanders. New transfers to the team also were highlighted by the conference in their Newcomer Watch List.

Jenna Ergle, a graduate student infielder, started in 32 games for the Boston College Eagles last season and has plenty of Division 1 experience coming to the Lady Choctaws. Carlon Brabham, a catcher and infielder from Copiah-Lincoln Community College, hit .449 for the Wolves last season in 43 games played and was also named a second-team All-American in the NJCAA. Finally, Alexis Laughlin, a junior outfielder, was .384 at the plate last season in 53 games for Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and was an honorable mention in the All-MACCC team. 

Barnett adds that they “have a really good incoming group of girls … It’ll just be interesting because we’re all going to have to mesh from playing at different levels, but I think we’ll be able to do it very well.”

Both non-conference and GSC play on the 2022 ledger will include some tough opponents. Four GSC teams ended the year ranked nationally in UAH, AUM at No. 21, West Florida at No. 15, and Valdosta State just outside the top five at No. 6. 

MC’s season gets rolling on Feb. 4 against Barry University in Gulf Shores, where the Lady Choctaws play five games in three days. The highlight game of that stretch is a matchup against the Nighthawks of North Georgia, who was No. 4 to end 2021. 

The Blue and Gold also will take part in the Charger Chillout over Feb. 11-13, with five games set for that time span as well. The final three contests are all against top opponents in No. 16 Young Harris, No. 25 Southern Indiana, and No. 10 Lincoln Memorial.

Ever since the Lady Choctaws were welcomed back to the GSC, they’ve consistently been a dangerous team that opposing coaches circle on their schedules. The team’s first game in Clinton is not until Feb. 23, where they host Spring Hill College. So even though MC has to wait for its first game on familiar turf, you can guarantee it will be a year full of talent, success, and the always-hanging thought that this is a team that can make history.

Motivated Choctaw Baseball Eagerly Await 2022 Season / Jace Aymond

Photo: Caleb Reese awaits a pitch against Delta State on May 1, 2021. The freshman was one of the top Choctaws at the plate, as he hit .326 on the year.

The feeling of knowing that one could have done more or performed better is one of the most gut-wrenching feelings an individual can experience. For the MC baseball team, that is exactly how they felt about their 2021 campaign. However, a disappointing season such as last year’s brings many positives in that the team can take a step back and open their eyes wider at what needs to be improved for a successful next year.

Last season, MC finished just below .500 with a 16-20 overall record while finishing 13-18 in GSC play. For the first time since 2016, the Choctaws were unable to make the postseason and GSC tournament, as they were just three games behind Auburn-Montgomery who claimed the eighth and final seed. 

It was a team loaded with plenty of talent, however, as Caleb Reese and Dakota Kennedy were both named as All-GSC First Team members. Kennedy hit .366 on the year, a team high, while also leading the squad with his 49 hits and 36 runs. Reese finished the year swinging .326 with 44 hits, 27 RBIs, and nine home runs.

Two votes away from adding an All-American to his collegiate career, Reese, a sophomore from Bossier City, La., was also selected by the GSC to the Preseason All-GSC Team. 

Of course, Reese mentioned, “It’s a great honor, but at the end of the day, I have to know that there’s a bigger and better promised land than that. It’s a great award to get and I’m very grateful for it, but at the end of the day, I want me and my boys to go to Cary, North Carolina, and win a World Series. That’s the ultimate goal.”

Reese has never finished with a losing record to end a season in his baseball career and he’s one of the lead advocates in making sure that this season is a successful one for him and his Choctaws. The concepts of trust, chemistry, and accountability are what Reese sees as things that need to be applied year-round to set themselves up for success.

“Such a big part of this game is trusting the guy to your left and right and keeping them accountable. That’s somewhere that we’ve really grown since the first week of the offseason. We’ve definitely improved since the fall, and I really think it’s going to be a special season this year.”

Head Coach Jeremy Haworth adds on to the approach they took this offseason by saying, “This fall, we made it a priority to put a lot of pressure on this team, see how they grow together, and I think they responded pretty well.”

On his team for the spring, Haworth also mentioned, “We have some key pieces on the mound coming back and we feel like they’re going to help us tremendously. As long as we can get healthy, I think we’ll be fine this year.”

With a new season comes new additions to the team as well. Haworth and the Gulf South Conference have big expectations for the first-year Choctaw players. The GSC’s Newcomer Watchlist highlighted Joseph Cuomo, a right-handed senior pitcher and a transfer from Bryan College; Kolby McWilliams, a sophomore catcher from Spring Hill College; and Gavin LeBlanc, a left-handed freshman pitcher from Iota High School.

The 2022 schedule is not forgiving in any way as of the 50 games on the ledger, 15 of those are against nationally ranked opponents. In fact, the Choctaws’ first series of the year is at home against the 18th-ranked North Greenville Crusaders on Feb. 4-5. 

Other notable non-conference games include top-30 Arkansas Tech, 21st-ranked Southern Arkansas, and 2021 national semifinalists and top-three-ranked Tampa University. Three GSC members also are ranked: No. 8 West Florida, No. 12 Lee, and No. 25 Delta State.

“If you want to win a GSC championship, compete in a regional, and win a National Championship, you have to play these teams to see where you’re at and where you stand,” said Haworth, who now is in his seventh year at the helm. 

He added, “Baseball is a game where if you can stay disciplined in what you’re doing and not worry about what the other team does and stay mentally strong, then you can beat anybody. It doesn’t matter about the talent; it matters if you’re willing to execute more than somebody else. If we do that and have a successful year, then that gives us confidence going into the playoffs and a good chance at winning a National Championship.”

Although this was a team that missed the postseason for the first time in five years last season, with new faces plus a productive offseason to reset the dynamics, the 2022 campaign for the Choctaws will be one filled with big plays, excitement, and emotion. Plus, it always seems that teams are tougher to beat if they are out with a vengeance.

“Last season really lit a fire under me heading into this one,” Reese said, “and I took it personally.”

The Rise of a King: Brian King Joins MC Athletic Staff / Michael Long

Photo: Brian King (on left) discusses workouts with Assistant Track & Field Coach Joe Snyder (on right).

The unexpected move took place over December of 2021. Mississippi College’s former Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Marcus “Mak” Makovicka unexpectedly left to accept a position at Arizona State University. As a result of that move, Brian King was promoted into the assistant coach position. 

New Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach King was promoted after being a graduate assistant from fall of 2020 through fall of 2021. Prior to that he started as an intern at the Madison Healthplex during the fall of 2019, before becoming an intern at MC in January 2020. In regard to his time at Madison Healthplex, King said, “I got to get some good experience there, and after that semester was over was when I kind of had in my mind that I wanted to go to the collegiate side of things.” 

At the age of 24, things have moved quickly for King and his collegiate career. When asked if he expected things to move so quickly for him, he said, “You know? If you’re talking about when I was in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. So no, not necessarily. Then now getting that assistant position a semester early, that’s kind of a shock and a very good thing and I’m very happy about that.” 

The “semester early” King was referring to was the completion of his graduate degree in May of 2022. King originally planned to send out applications and attempt to use contacts he had made in the past couple of years to stay in the Jackson area, most likely in a high school program. He planned to move down to high school despite his dream of working with college athletes in order to stay close to his girlfriend, who is currently completing PT school at UMMC.  

King expressed extreme satisfaction for the opportunity to be promoted inside Mississippi College’s athletic program. When asked why he had concerns about moving down to the high school level, he said, “A lot of times it’s hard once you get into high school jobs, it’s hard to get back into the collegiate side of things.” It was King’s dream and goal to work in college athletics.  

King’s responsibilities from graduate assistant to assistant coach have increased significantly. As a GA, King worked with the men’s and women’s tennis and golf teams. As the assistant coach, however, he directly supervises and runs workouts for men’s and women’s basketball, track and field, and cross country. King does not pick favorites; when asked if there was a team he enjoyed the most he said, “No, not necessarily one I enjoy the most. I will say, I haven’t had a ton of time working with these new sports … I have enjoyed working with them.” 

For those who wonder what workout the new strength and conditioning coach loves the most, it is jumping. When asked where his love for jumping came from, all he said was, “I love jumping. I don’t know. I’ve always loved jumping. It’s just a great method of training …” He went on to say, “I believe in jumping with every sport that I have. Even when I had golf the past couple of years, I’ve jumped with golf, even though it’s not something they do in their sport.” Many would consider this an odd thing to involve in workouts; however, King explained that it helps train explosiveness in athletes’ muscles and mindsets, as well as helping them master balance and body control.  

The last thing to know about Brian King is that he loves fishing. When fishing was brought up, he immediately said, “I love fishing. I’m addicted to fishing.” Fishing is like the other half of what makes King who he is. He loves largemouth bass fishing and crappie fishing; however, he said, “I don’t have a whole lot of honey holes for crappie … Usually I rely on people taking me crappie fishing …” Thus, those who would like to get to know King can go by and offer to take him crappie fishing. He would love to go with you. However, do not ask to go bass fishing with him as he does not reveal his bass honey holes to anyone. 

 Like father, like son: Gavin Greene, son of NFL Hall of Famer, motivated by faith, family, and football / Caroline Hunt

Photo: Gavin Greene stands for a picture in Robinson-Hale Stadium at Mississippi College, his alma mater. Greene wears his father Kevin Greene’s Hall of Fame Induction Class of  2016 cap and Pittsburgh Steelers t-shirt, the team his father chose to present his Hall of Fame ring to him.

It’s 10:30 a.m. on a cold day in Rome, Georgia when the Mississippi College football team begins its pregame walk-through for an afternoon kickoff against Shorter University. One broad-shouldered defensive end sizes up Barron Stadium and begins to slowly walk up and down the turf’s length. 

After he’s done soaking in the environment around him, he goes into the locker room to change out of his warm-ups and into his #97 game jersey. 

He reappears on the green closer to the game’s 1 p.m. start time and taps Choctaws’ defensive coordinator Tony Gilbert, on the shoulder as he reclines on a sideline bench. Gilbert sits up and invites the defender to join him on the bench. 

A moment later, both have bowed heads and clasped hands as Gilbert’s lips move slowly while his player’s head nods to his coach’s words. They then look up simultaneously and Gilbert’s player rises and goes back to the locker room to wait for the start of another game in the Choctaws’ 2021 season.

Praying is how Gavin Greene prepares for the game at hand. 

*  *  *

Being the son of NFL Hall of Famer Kevin Greene ultimately puts a target on his back when preparing for his shot at the League. It won’t be easy to live up to his father’s career record of 160.0 sacks, placing him third on the all-time NFL sacks list, but Gavin Greene is confident in his ability to handle the pressure. 

Greene actually didn’t have aspirations to play football like his dad when he was younger. 

“My first memory of football was getting knocked out by a kid named Ryland Fisher who was a big fifth grader when I was a peewee guy who just started playing. He absolutely destroyed me and I decided then football wasn’t for me.”

Yet, a career shift for his father meant a shift in mindset toward football for Greene. 

“When my dad became the OLB [outside linebacker] coach for the [Green Bay] Packers, I became an equipment and water boy for the team during my summers when I didn’t have much else to do. And that’s when I really started falling in love with football,” Greene said.

However desirous Greene was about this newfound drive for football, his parents, especially his father, had reservations. 

“They worried about the criticism I might get for being Kevin Greene’s son. I wanted to be an outside linebacker just like him and they fought me playing football for a while,” said Greene. “I mean, statistically he’s the best OLB there is and me wanting to live up to and exceed that is daunting. They knew the pressure I’d have.” 

According to MaxPreps, a high school sports statistics bank, Greene played in 23 high school games, tallying 6.0 sacks, 58 solo tackles, 135 total tackles, 2 caused fumbles, and an average of 5.9 tackles per game for Niceville High School, located outside Greene’s native Destin, Fla.

Greene demonstrates a blocking drill in the north end zone of Robinson-Hale Stadium at Mississippi College. During water breaks at Choctaw practices, one could find MC defenders huddled around a goal post base as two defensive players face off to perform the drill trying to out-block the other, as teammates voraciously cheer each on.

The Greene family, consisting of Greene’s father Kevin, his mother Tara, and sister Gabby, moved to Florida after Greene’s father decided to relocate the family to the coast after an illustrious playing and coaching career that took the family to places like Charlotte, North Carolina and Green Bay, Wisconsin. Greene said they moved to the Sunshine State for the sole purpose of being a closer family- so his father could “just be a dad.” 

And, of course, it offered a place Greene could play at a high school that promised much in the way of football, a high school that even gave Kevin Greene the opportunity to coach his son during his senior year. 

Greene’s football success in high school got him noticed by coaches at Southern Miss, a Conference-USA school in Hattiesburg, Miss. And, after two seasons with the Golden Eagles and many memories, Greene transferred to Mississippi College to join the Choctaw family for his remaining college playing career.

At MC, Greene earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a starting position in the defensive lineup for the Choctaws. He played in almost 30 regular-season games, including games in the shortened spring season of 2020 (due to COVID-19) with an all-career total of 52 solo and assisted tackles, and in the 2021 season alone, 31 tackles. His 2021 season high was 6 tackles on October 2nd at North Greenville University, which he later matched at Shorter University on October 16th and West Alabama University on November 13th. 

Greene stands in front of the home side stands at Robinson-Hale Stadium. Smiling, Greene poses for a picture on the sidelines. 

One practice, in particular, Charles Watson, an assistant defensive coach, remembers when Coach Kevin Greene paid a little visit to Robinson-Hale Stadium to spend the day with his son and his teammates. 

“One really great memory I have of Gavin is a day his father came and worked with the d-line. You could just see Gavin’s drive and raw hunger for knowledge,” said Watson. “That was a great day at practice for Gavin and it showed me the great relationship he and his father had.”

Kevin Greene is probably the biggest influence on his son’s NFL aspirations. Gavin has been coached by his father all his life. From coaching his son during his senior season of high school in Niceville to being coached from the stands at Southern Miss or the occasional stop-by at MC, Kevin Greene has permeated his son’s playing career in every stage. 

Except for this new stage of life Greene hopes to embark on. 

Kevin Greene passed in December of 2020, a month before Gavin would leave for the spring semester at MC. At just 58, the 2016 Hall of Famer’s death rocked the football world. But, even more so, his absence left Gavin Greene without his mentor, coach, father, and greatest friend.

“My dad was my best friend. We had a really strong relationship and he was one of the most important people in my life,” said Greene. “[The coaches] didn’t push me to come back, they actually said to take the semester off and then just come back if I wanted to. But I needed to be away from home, working on myself and trying to separate myself from the grief there. Huge support here was Coach Gilbert and the other defensive guys.” 

Greene’s faith was tested during this time. 

“I was angry. I just couldn’t understand why us, why now. I loved my father very much and for the first time in my life, I actually questioned God,” said Greene. “I’m not the best Christian out there, but I love Jesus and I try my best. That’s another thing I learned from my mom and dad- that enjoying life is easier when you love Jesus and love each other like Jesus. That’s us. That was my dad.”

The biggest trial of Greene’s 24 years, even more difficult than trying to make it to the National Football League, has proven Greene to be very resilient. He can sit and smile fondly when remembering stories about his father, family vacations, and his father’s faith. 

Former MC offensive lineman and friend of Greene’s, Cade Barrett, says, “Gavin has matured since his dad passed. He sees things differently but he’s carrying it proudly. He follows his father’s ideals and methods. He’ll continue to follow these and show it to others.”

A fierce coach and player on the field and an extremely loving father off, Kevin Greene was one of his son’s biggest supporters, encouragers, and advocates. And, even in his absence, his son is still learning from his father’s life. 

“When I lost him, I learned how important it is to enjoy your family. I could have all the money in the world but it won’t bring back my dad.” said Greene. “Sure, it can buy a little happiness here and there, but the material doesn’t last. What lasts is the time you spend with the people you love.”

Speaking on Greene’s influence on the Choctaw football program, Coach Watson noted the grit of Gavin Greene. 

“I will miss that guy’s hustle. Some days I would leave him in the game longer than normal and he never complained. He would go 100% even when he was tired. There was a play against West Florida where their running back broke for at least 60 yards. If no one stopped him he would have scored. Gavin sprinted the 60 yards and when their running back broke the last defender, Gavin stopped him,” Watson said. “The impact he’s left on our team is that he helped leave this place better than when he got here.”

* * *

As the Choctaws run onto the field at the start of Shorter University’s 2021 Homecoming football game, a small section of visiting fans are wearing gold and navy, standing up and shaking poms and yelling for one player in particular. Two fans wear #97 jerseys and scream louder than all the rest. “Go, Greene! Go, Greene! Go, Greene!” Gavin Greene’s mother and sister fervently cheer him on as he averages six tackles against Shorter, helping Choctaw defense hold Shorter offense. 

The Choctaws win 20-7. 

After the game, Greene is met with a surprise as his entire extended family meets him outside the gates of the stadium, embracing him for a game well-played. They all take a photo together to commemorate the occasion, pride and love shining on all their faces. In between “Hey, I didn’t know you’d be here!” and affectionate hugs, there is one person missing from the celebration. But, that one person missing is actually there in the way a mother and a sister embrace their player as he meets them off the field. 

Photos by Caroline Hunt. 

Speed Library’s Open Hours Extend until Midnight / Gracie Lee

         MC students often fall into two categories: the ones who study in the Commons and the ones who study in the library. For those who frequent Leland Speed Library, a welcome change has occurred. In contrast to its usual closing time of 9:30 p.m., students can now access the building between 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Fridays, 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays, and 2:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. on Sundays. In addition to this, the library’s Starbucks has switched their closing hours from 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. These changes became effective at the start of the spring semester on Jan. 10. 

In the last few years, the library has withstood societal changes like the transition from printed to digital written works. In a world of online databases and SparkNotes, students weren’t utilizing the library’s checkout systems or stacks. It was simply a quiet, common place to eliminate homework from their to-do lists. 

Although the students who did study at the library wanted longer hours, the library didn’t bring in enough traffic during the day to allow them to stay open longer. In 2018-2019, records showed that attendance greatly dropped off after 9:00 p.m. When COVID-19 hindered in-person operations, even fewer students attended because of the indoor mask mandate–which stayed in operation on MC’s campus until October of 2021. 

When faculty lost the night supervisor at the end of the fall semester, the rest of the staff pitched in and rotated until midnight during finals week. The library did continue to open promptly at 7:30 a.m. every morning. “Many students need to print papers and make last minute edits to assignments before 8:00 a.m. using the library’s computers,” Claudia Conklin, library director, said. “Early morning classes that meet in our two e-classrooms need access to the building as well.”

 SGA Senator Mason Fahy was tired of hearing complaints about the library’s limited availability. “I just kind of spearheaded this,” Fahy said. “I had enough complaints from a variety of different people. So many people just talk about a problem. But SGA is about seeing a problem and finding a solution.” He began by drafting a Senate bill and bringing it to the attention of administration and library staff in late October of 2021. His peers in SGA are also among those who brought about the upstairs study rooms, a favorite amongst bio pre-med majors–one of MC’s most prominent fields of study. 

“Most students don’t start studying until–let’s be honest–10:00 p.m. We’re a retirement town, but we’re not a retirement college,” Fahy joked. “It was a partnership between SGA and the administration and the library staff. [We asked] ‘What can we do to best meet the students’ needs?’”As part of the Auxiliary Services Committee, Fahy petitioned for later coffee shop hours as a bonus. 

When he talked with the library staff, he found out that a main hindrance was the lack of student workers available to cover night shifts.  “[I said] ‘Let’s talk to the university to get the funding,’ and they did and were able to hire somebody,” Fahy said. “We saw a need and tried to meet a need. There was a disconnect, but all it took was going through the right channels.” 

This process required approval from the assistant provost and additional supervisors who could train the additional student workers. “At the end of each term, the library staff make improvements to our services or spaces based on usage statistics, observations and suggestions,” Conklin said. “Budgeting is always important, but COVID-19 guidelines, statistics, and a staff shortage were major reasons [for the shortage of student workers].”

Although student traffic fluctuates between semesters, Conklin noted that their unique opportunities seek to engage and encourage students. The librarians and staff seek to provide students with help in their research questions or on how to use the library’s resources. Besides academic assistance, it hosts activities like movies in the lobby or contests. “Our goal is to provide as much service and support as we can, in a variety of ways,” Conklin said. 

Beth Owen, a senior nursing major, is grateful for the new changes. “I remember the time when we could study every night until 1:00 a.m. and I miss those days,” she said. “It has really good resources that are sometimes necessary for doing homework and assignments. It allowed us to have more unbroken school time, because when you’re forced to leave a place in the middle of an assignment, it really messes up the flow of your work.” 

Caroline McGuffee, president of SAPA (Sexual Assault Prevention Ambassadors), and her cohorts recognized the need for a safe space to study in their November safety concerns report. “By closing the library, a safe and well-lit place to study, this forces students off-campus or maybe even to academic buildings with notorious lighting issues,” she said. “As a student concerned about the community, I am glad the library is offering a safe option for students to study.”

The library’s new implementations allow students of all majors to have a common place to socialize, study, and read without interruption. “The fact that they’re open until midnight is a step in the right direction,” Owen said. 

Art Moves East / Evan Espinoza

Photo: Auditorium at East Campus as of 1/24/2022. The renovations will see the auditorium and surrounding former junior high buildings become the re-imagined Gore Arts Complex.

Mississippi College’s East Campus, home to the old Clinton Junior High building and Gore Arts Complex, is well underway of being remodeled. Since the spring of 2021, the art department at MC has planned to expand to that side of campus to maximize efficiency of operations and services to students once the renovations are complete. The move means most of the studio art programs in Aven will be moving over to the Gore Arts Complex at East Campus. This move will make more space available in Aven for graphic design programs, as well as the communication and music departments. The art department’s utilization of East Campus will bring new programs and opportunities for students involved in the art department and anyone with an interest in the classes they offer. Graduate students will be able to make use of offices and personal work spaces at East Campus.

The art department’s administrative assistant, Nathan Jarnagin, as well as Department Chair Randolph Miley, discussed some of the plans the department has for its future at East Campus. Dr. Miley described the new facilities as a “studio environment for all of the hands-on art courses at MC.” The art department will be able to have more and bigger classes with the expanded facilities and will have opportunities to create brand new classes to compliment additional art majors and minors at MC. “The move will triple the size of our program and allow a great deal of growth between studio art as well as graphic design,” said Miley. The growth will see the addition of things like a legitimate dark room in Aven for a digital photography program and studios at East Campus for new woodworking and sculpting programs. The auditorium at East Campus will also provide theatre programs at MC a place for practicing and performing in a spot built for the sole purpose of those programs. 

The art department at MC has quickly been outgrowing its home in Aven. Over the past few years, it has only been harder for the department to use Aven as a place to comfortably execute all of the art programs and make use of new equipment that can make those programs so much greater. “We’ve been in a critical space issue for many years,” explained Jarnagin. “We have made do with the space assigned to us 50 years ago, but we have a much bigger program now. We have no space for studio art or graphic design to grow.” With the art department utilizing studio art to create more classes for non-majors, demand has skyrocketed for more space and a re-evaluation of the studio art program’s facilities. Ceramics is another program that has seen some of the major growth in the art department. The addition of new kilns over at East Campus will be huge for the ceramics program and allow for more classes and more participation.

The Gore Arts Complex at East Campus is also getting special treatment from a former Choctaw. Katie Jo Chane, a former interior design student at MC, is the interior designer for the remodeling proceedings. Chane is on staff as an interior designer with CDFL, a Jackson-based architecture and engineering team. “It was a really cool thing to see an MC graduate given the responsibility of the interior design on this project,” said Miley. “She’s got some really great ideas and we’re very excited.” Chane’s talent will offer the art department a fresh look at what their studios can achieve. Her plans are allowing the department to make the expansions they want and need for all the students within the studio art and graphic art programs at MC.

The Pandemic Nearly Two Years Later / Kienna Van Dellen

How are students dealing with the global pandemic nearly two years later? I am sure that is a question many of us thought we would never be asking ourselves. The current student body on Mississippi College’s campus have all been through different seasons of life during the pandemic, whether it’s graduating high school amidst quarantine, getting sent home from MC back in March 2020, or finishing your bachelor’s degree on a random Tuesday as you finished your final online Zoom class. COVID-19 is now something that we’ve gotten used to and often can’t remember much of what life was like before it struck each of our lives. 

The acceptance of this pandemic seems to be similar to the stages of grief. Many of us are grieving what could have been within the past two years but have now come to a place of acceptance. The first stage was denial in the early weeks of the pandemic, then came anger in the height of 2020. Soon winter hit and the bargaining began as 2020 came to a close. The year 2021 brought the stage of mental battles and the slow journey to acceptance which is where we seem to land now in 2022. 

Students have become more resilient but it has come at a cost. The college experience is difficult when you can’t spend time in the community around you. For many of us, our mental health has been affected by all of the life changes around us as we try to navigate the adult world. We have begun to settle into the many uncertainties of life, such as the obstacles of financial struggle to pay for tuition, finding work in the current job market, having to adjust to online learning, and trying to be adaptable to the ever-changing campus environment. 

However, there are still glimmers of light amidst the many dark struggles each person faces on campus. Many of us students find ourselves trying to plan 10 steps ahead with grad school, post-college plans, relationships, and careers. The pandemic really brought much of this pre-planning to a grinding halt as we began to realize not knowing our next step in life doesn’t mean our world will crumble around us. I believe this has strengthened our ability to face the unknown without fear. Personally, it has given me the ability to give up control and trust in my Creator without fear for my future. 

College is already such a rich time of self-discovery, and yet the pandemic has brought another layer. We learned new hobbies, applied ourselves to our academics in ways we never thought we could have, and bonded with tight groups of friends that started as strangers hidden behind masks. This has forced us to slow down and evaluate our priorities. The rush to get ahead no longer seems important as the future becomes less clear. 

During this new season of acceptance of the present and a bittersweet look at the past, I encourage you to move forward with patience and endurance. Pause and look outside of yourself to see so many others all in this season with you. We have all struggled in our own ways but I encourage you to uphold each other in love and support. We have our differences but the limitations and frailties of the human life is what bonds us beyond our backgrounds and individual beliefs and is something I encourage you to support your neighbors in through this new year.