April 1, 2010

Civil rights leader's grandson visits Ole Miss

Considering it was his first visit to Ole Miss, Ralph David Abernathy IV didn't know what to expect from the Oxford, Miss., community or campus.

The Atlanta (Westminster) all-purpose back left his home in the early hours Saturday and attended the Rebels' latest junior day, touring the different departments and visiting with head coach Houston Nutt and his staff.

The entire day was enjoyable for Abernathy but one particular topic stood out and put to rest some questions for the 5-foot-7, 165-pounder's family. Ole Miss has long battled its history and perception concerning civil rights and racial discrimination, and Abernathy wanted to hear of the changes and view it himself.

That's understandable for anybody, but especially for the Abernathy family. Abernathy's grandfather, Ralph David Abernathy, co-founded the American Civil Rights Movement and was best friends with Martin Luther King, Jr. The elder Abernathy and King traveled together for 13 years, and Abernathy was present when King was killed in 1968.

"My family has a history in civil rights, and coach Nutt was quick to explain Ole Miss and put my family to ease," Abernathy said. "I heard about James Meredith and how far Ole Miss has come. After being with coach Nutt and coach (Derrick) Nix, there's no issue.

"The trip was great in all ways, and you just feel at home there. Impressed is definitely one way to put it."

The Rebels were the first to offer Abernathy in February, and Cincinnati recently joined the fight as well. Abernathy is also receiving interest from Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Stanford, among others.

He covers 40 yards in 4.4 seconds, and Ole Miss is targeting Abernathy in the offensive backfield, for a role similar to former All-SEC back Dexter McCluster.

"They say they can see me somewhere back there, and of course, running their Wild Rebel package," Abernathy said. "I was into everything they said. It was easy to see I was wanted, and coach Nutt already cares about me."

Being from Atlanta, Abernathy admits he prefers more of a big-city environment, but he also admits Memphis is close to Oxford, and he appreciates what Oxford has to offer. Plus, it's not all about that one area.

"I like a bigger place better, but that's what I know," Abernathy said. "And it's not a major thing for me. I'm looking for what's best for me from a football standpoint. That's what matters."

Nutt emphasized Ole Miss' history of preparing players for the National Football League,, something Abernathy has a definite interest in.

"My dad always says the proof is in the pudding, and Ole Miss can put players in the NFL. That's my dream, and my dad is trying to help me accomplish my dream. Ole Miss would be a place for me to accomplish that."

Abernathy also runs track, thus his weekends are busy with that sport. He plans to check out Cincinnati and a few other schools whenever possible. But for a first visit to Ole Miss, the Rebels made a solid impression.

"My parents really enjoyed coach Nutt and what everybody had to say," Abernathy said. "It was the same for me. I like them a lot and can tell I would be happy there."

Abernathy had 1,501 yards and 21 touchdowns as a junior and carries a 3.0 GPA.

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