Are You Ready? Inside Ole Miss football’s most star-studded tradition

Published 9:24 am Friday, October 20, 2017

“It’s a great day to be in Vaught Hemingway Stadium. My good friends Sam and Mary Haskell were kind enough to invite me to be part of the Ole Miss family, and they told me to be sure to mention that Ole Miss has the most beautiful coeds in the country, the best gameday in College Football, the best fans in the SEC, and that Eli Manning owns Tom Brady. And also to ask you…Are You Ready?!”

–Betty White.

The Grove, the Walk of Champions and Locking the Vaught are all great but is there really anything better than hearing a Golden Girl diss Tom Brady and get more than 60,000 people stirred into a frenzied yell that ends in Ole Miss By Damn?

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Over the years, everyone from Kermit the Frog to Snoop Dogg has popped up on the Jumbotron and delivered a rousing lead to Ole Miss’ famous Hotty Toddy chant to get the Rebel faithful pumped up for the next 60 minutes. Even James Franco once lead the chant from the set of his film adaptation of a William Faulkner novel, revealing an Ole Miss T-shirt at the end of the video.

“It really is one of the coolest traditions in sports, it’s an awesome way to start games, no doubt about that,” said Michael Thompson, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Communications and Marketing.

In order to lock in the celebrity guest for each home game, Thompson works with a team to find people with some sort of connection to Ole Miss. Occasionally, the celebrity will reach out to the university for it, but usually the process starts with a tip from someone who’s connected to the celebrity, then the team works to set it up from there.

“There’s just these random connections,” Thompson said. “The Ole Miss network is wide-ranging. We try to lean into every possible lead that we have.”

“We look for people that a large percentage of the stadium is going to know, either by their voice or by what they look like,” Thompson said. “That’s the fun of it, people want recognizable people up there, and it goes a long way, it’s a big time tradition.”

One of the biggest moments for the tradition came in 2003 before the Rebels took on LSU, when Russell Crowe appeared on the screen along with clips of him battling a tiger in the movie Gladiator, then gave a Maximus-esque yell of Are You Ready to get the crowd roaring. And who could forget the 2015 LSU game when Katy Perry, with her hair and makeup a matching Rebel blue, took a chomp out of a corn dog after bringing the fans to their feet with an electrifying cheer.

Along with those two, Thompson especially enjoyed Horrible Bosses and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star Charlie Day’s performance. Day’s wife, actress Mary Elizabeth Ellis, attended Ole Miss.

“We did a whole kind of elaborate set up, which he’s sitting in the Manning room, that’s probably my favorite one,” Thompson said. “Charlie is so fun and he’s just a great dude.”

Charlie Day gets Rebel fans fired up before the 2013 victory over the LSU Tigers (courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics)

Sometimes, like with NBA legend Vince Carter or actors Woody Harrelson and Liam Hemsworth, the celebrity is attending the game so the video is shot then. Other times, when the celebrity is a TV personality or musician, they take advantage of the easy access they have to cameras.

Shepard Smith, Tom Brokaw, Drew Carey, Jay Leno, they’re shooting something almost every single day, so we just work with them and they just alert their crew when they wrap for the day,” Thompson said.

Other times, like with Nascar stars Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Danica Patrick and Denny Hamlin, who were playing in the FedEx St Jude Classic golf tournament in Memphis, Ole Miss will handle the shoot themselves.

“We sent a crew up there, its just right up the road, and shot it at the golf course,” Thompson said. “We’ve (also) coordinated with a local crew in California to go shoot one before. We do it anyway that we can.”

Despite it being one of the most popular Rebel traditions, there’s no history of it on any official Rebel social media, and for good reason.

“We do like that there’s kind of a mystique about it. We don’t post them publicly after the game or anything like that, just because we think it’s a special in-stadium thing,” Thompson said. “It just plays differently when you’re in a stadium full, and its on the video board, it plays a little bit differently than watching it on YouTube, cause there’s no crowd noise. It’s just harder to kind of really replicate the experience, so we didn’t want to ever minimize how powerful and impactful just those few seconds are.”

There’s really nothing like seeing it in person, but check out a few of the most notable Are You Ready’s below. Oh, and make sure you make it to the game early for LSU tomorrow. Thompson said a big-time, nationally known athlete is going to lead the Rebel masses into their battle cry this week.