Lane Kiffin details how he recruited, flipped 9-year-old from Tennessee to Ole Miss fandom
OXFORD — Lane Kiffin put his all into recruiting five-star fan Landon Israel.
The Ole Miss football coach made headlines last week by chronicling his recruiting of Israel, a 9-year-old former Tennessee fan who entered what he called the "fan transfer portal." Israel sent letters to LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss and Tennessee. Alabama and LSU responded by sending memorabilia.
Kiffin responded with a phone call.
"We get a lot of letters over the years," Kiffin explained Tuesday. "We try to respond to them in some manner. I just thought his was a little bit different. I thought 'Alright, this is pretty neat for him to take so much time. Let's see if we can do something the kid will remember for the rest of his life.'"
Kiffin said he reached out to Israel's dad, after which he called and chatted with Israel. Kiffin's hands-on approach clearly worked.
On Thursday, Kiffin tweeted a picture of a follow-up letter from Israel in which the third grader committed to root for the Rebels. He said Kiffin's phone call sold him, and he hopes to go to the Ole Miss vs. Tennessee game in Knoxville this fall, as well as one home game in Oxford, preferably the one against LSU.
Kiffin called Israel a "5-star fan" and said he doesn't intend to redshirt him as a leading supporter.
As for how he beat out former coworkers and employers like Nick Saban, Ed Orgeron and Tennessee, Kiffin thinks it all comes down to personal touch.
"You've got to know your opponent and know how invested you are," Kiffin said. "Some people wrote letters, some people sent some sunglasses and stuff. But there's nothing like personal touch. I think calling him myself and talking to him was a big factor in this. Maybe those guys will learn next time."
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.