When Hunting the Opponent: The Legend of Ole Miss Landshark

It’s in that moment of celebration after the execution of a big play. It’s the pose for every game day photo. It’s the motto on the back of your t-shirt. It’s electric. It’s pride. It’s all over the campus, all over Oxford, and all over the opposing offense. It’s the Ole Miss landshark.
​Ever since the highly controversial Colonel Reb was denounced as the University of Mississippi’s official mascot, other schools have questioned who we are, as a team, as a university. With the election of the black bear mascot, critics wondered whether we thought of ourselves as rebels or bears, or perhaps something entirely different. In the months after the election of the black bear, a somewhat vengeful mascot emerged from the depths. After being dismissed as a potential mascot for the university, the landshark began to show his teeth as a serious contender in the mascot debate with support from former linebacker, Tony Fein. Over time, the landshark began to take over as it embodied fierceness, determination, and relentlessness-characteristics that were beginning to manifest in the Ole Miss football program. Perhaps the face of the famously dubbed “Landshark Defense,” DT Shackelford stated, “When I first stepped on campus, I can remember Coach Tyrone telling me, ‘We are the Landshark D, and do not forget it.’” The landshark was not satisfied with representing only the Ole Miss football program. He swam into basketball with Marshall Henderson and continued to permeate the athletic department at Ole Miss. What power, what tenacity the introduction of this mascot brought to a university searching for some symbol that they could stand behind with pride, without controversy, with unity and passion.
​Perhaps the cornerstone of the landshark movement was the cohesiveness that it brought among players, fans, alumni, and students. After experiencing a history of struggle with controversial symbols and mascots, perhaps it was the sheer simplicity of the landshark, a characteristically strong, aggressive creature that appealed to Rebel fans. Shackelford also shared his appreciation: “Being an African American player, I can say that everyone can relate to the landshark. It has unified our student body.” While the black bear can currently be seen at athletic events and at the occasional charity function, the fans are enjoying the “Fins Up” camera. Sharing the “Fins Up” creates a tangible tie between the players and fans, a tie with which the black bear simply cannot compete.
​Enter ASB Senator, Sam Fowkles. A passionate sophomore and landshark enthusiast, Fowkles started a petition to make the vicious creature the university’s official mascot. With the petition posted to his Facebook and Twitter accounts, Fowkles expected a few hundred signautres, but to his surprise, the petition boasted 1,500 signatures before he went to bed that night. After contacting Ross Bjork, athletic director, Fowkles removed the petition with the plans to reopen the issue after football season ends. He claims he, “never planned to start Senate with ‘guns blazing,’” but, “students want to see this.” Fowkles truly desires to be a voice of the people while collaborating with Bjork, avoiding animosity over the issue. He foresees a relatively easy transition from the conservative bear to the already beloved landshark as official mascot, and considering his evident passion and the landshark’s every-growing popularity, this dream could most certainly become a reality in the years to come.
​As for now, the beloved landshark will continue to permeate Ole Miss athletics, symbolizing an intense demeanor and igniting a ferocious competitiveness in Rebel fans and athletes. As he hunts, he will continue motivating our fans and terrorizing offenses everywhere. Keep those fins up, Rebel fans.

Allie Jones
Allie Jones

aajones7@go.olemiss.edu

Allie is a junior majoring in English with an emphasis in creative writing from Benton, Mississippi. In what little free time she has, she enjoys reading, writing, and anything that has to do with Harry Potter (She’s a Hufflepuff). Allie is a grammar aficionado and an avid coffee mug collector.