Experiences

Mississippi’s Sports Icons

Get to Know Mississippi’s Sports Icons Through Some of the Places That Shaped Their Careers

Credit: MS Sports Hall of Fame & Museum

Walter Payton | The legendary NFL running back was born in Columbia, Mississippi, and played for Jackson State University in Mississippi’s capital city. After earning a first-round draft pick from the Chicago Bears in 1975, he went on to play for the franchise for 13 seasons, and he even garnered a Super Bowl win in 1985. Widely regarded as one of the greatest football players of all time, Payton was honored at his alma mater by having the campus gym named after him. Today, JSU students are reminded of their famous alum every time they visit the Walter Payton Health and Recreation Center, which is appropriately located on Walter Payton Drive.

Credit: Mississippi State Athletics

Dak Prescott | The former Mississippi State quarterback has been the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys since his rookie season in 2016. During that year, he was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year. He’s also the first Cowboys quarterback in history to wear #4, a number he chose to honor his mother’s birthday. Families with budding football stars can enroll them in the Dak Prescott Football ProCamp, which he holds in Starkville every summer. Prescott fans also can eat like him by visiting his favorite restaurant in town, The Little Dooey, which is known for its delicious fried catfish and barbecue.

Credit: MS Sports Hall of Fame & Museum

Jerry Rice | With a 20-year career in the NFL, which includes three Super Bowl titles with the San Francisco 49ers, Jerry Rice is considered by many to be the greatest NFL player of all time. But before he was an NFL star, he was a clutch wide receiver at Mississippi Valley State University. The public university in Itta Bena decided to pay homage to the star by renaming its football stadium for Rice, as well as former quarterback Willie Totten. You can catch home games at Rice-Totten Stadium.

Credit: MS Sports Hall of Fame & Museum

Archie Manning | Archie Manning kicked off one of the greatest family dynasties in football when he led Ole Miss’s football team as quarterback from 1968 to 1970. He was drafted to the New Orleans Saints in 1971, and he then raised two future NFL star quarterbacks, his sons Peyton and Eli, who are both Super Bowl champions. Trivia: the speed limit on the campus of Ole Miss is 18 mph to commemorate Manning’s jersey number. The school’s athletic center is named after him and features a weight room, team rooms, play lounge, locker rooms, and a dining hall accessible to all students.

Credit: Ole Miss Athletics

Eli Manning | Eli Manning followed in his father’s footsteps by also attending Ole Miss and serving as the team’s quarterback. In 2004, he became the first pick of the NFL draft and started his career with the New York Giants. In addition to being a two-time Super Bowl champ and two-time Super Bowl MVP, he’s also a humanitarian. He’s raised thousands of dollars for the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Children’s Clinic, which is now named after him. When in Oxford, be sure to visit his favorite eatery, Ajax Diner on the Oxford Square.

Credit: MS Sports Hall of Fame & Museum

Deuce McAllister | Dulymus “Deuce” McAlister, another Ole Miss alum, played eight seasons with the New Orleans Saints after serving as the school’s running back from 1997 to 2000. After his football career, McAllister dedicated his time and energy to his nonprofit Catch 22, which aims to enhance the lives of youth in the Gulf South Region. He also invested as a partner in an effort to restore the King Edward Hotel in Jackson.

Credit: MS Sports Hall of Fame & Museum

Will Clark | Mississippi State All-American first baseman Will Clark played for MSU from 1982-1985. He then played in the MLB from 1986-2000 for the San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, and St. Louis Cardinals. While still in college, he was part of the Silver Medalist U.S. Olympic team. In 2019, Mississippi State unveiled the Thunder and Lightning statues of Clark and his teammate Rafael Palmeiro at Dudy Noble Field on MSU’s campus.

Credit: MS Sports Hall of Fame & Museum

Don Blasingame | Mississippi has produced more than just football stars. Don Blasingame, also known as Blazer, was born in Corinth, Mississippi, and made his professional baseball debut in 1955 with the St. Louis Cardinals. Today, a street in Corinth is named in his honor, and you can see memorabilia from his time in the MLB on display at the Crossroads Museum and Historic Corinth Depot.

Credit: MS Sports Hall of Fame & Museum

Roy Oswalt | Houston Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt also got his start in the Magnolia State. The three-time National League All-Star was born in Weir, Mississippi, and eventually attended Holmes Community College in Goodman. He considered going to Mississippi State University, but he ended up signing with the Houston Astros in 1996, two years after starting at HCC. He retired after the 2013 season and opened 44 Prime steakhouse in Starkville.

Credit: MS Sports Hall of Fame & Museum

Jennifer Gillom | Representing women in sports, Jennifer Gillom is a WNBA forward who played for the Phoenix Mercury from 1997 to 2002 and the Los Angeles Sparks in 2003. The Abbeville, Mississippi, native attended Ole Miss, where she and her sister Peggie hold the record for the two top scorers in the school’s history. The Gillom Athletics Performance Center at Ole Miss is named for Jennifer and Peggie and is dedicated to women’s athletics on campus.

Mississippi’s sports roots run deep. Be part of the action by catching a game in one of the area’s epic college towns this season! Or to commemorate the incredible athleticism demonstrated by the some of the state’s very best, be sure to check out the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson!