Ole Miss offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez described it as a moment of panic: "it's like when you are at the office, going about your day and suddenly you pull up sharp and say 'did I leave the oven on?'." Rodriguez, one of the early innovators of the "smash mouth spread" offense is in a state of limbo at Ole Miss. Lane Kiffin, an offensive minded head coach is taking the reigns in Oxford, leaving Rodriguez's future uncertain.
He explains, "I've loved my time here, but the writing seems to be on the wall. So I took some time to wrap up my expenses, clean out some personal items from my office. Over the years you accumulate various little things and they all have such great memories attached." Or a lack of memory as the case may be. When the coach came across a token of his time at West Virginia his heart skipped a beat.
"It's a Christmas ornament" he said, "a little snow globe with a burning couch and a tiny bottle of George Dickel bourbon inside of it. I was going to put it on my tree at home and that's when it hit me."
The ornament shattered on the floor of an empty office and the gasped: he had never told Pat White and Steve Slaton to stop running.
"Calvin Magee who was our offensive coordinator for the 2006 Sugar Bowl is on our staff at Ole Miss and his office is right down the hall from mine. I picked up the broken snow globe and sprinted into his office. Cal! I showed him the ornament. 'New Orleans,' I said, '2006, Pat and Steve, tell me you told them to stop running.'
But Magee knew right away, "Oh no. It never occurred to me," he said. "I mean not to make excuses but usually at some point the opposing defense stops you from running EVENTUALLY. Coach Rod and I looked at each other. Who was running that UGA defensive staff? Maybe there's a chance and these guys haven't been sprinting in New Orleans for over thirteen years."
The pair consulted google on Magee's phone. When they saw that it was Willie Martinez, they knew they had to do the right thing. They contacted the New Orleans police.
"I was just sick about it," said Rodriguez. "Who leaves a young man running for over a decade? And how did Georgia let this happen?"
Fortunately the story has a happy ending. Steve Slaton and Pat White were indeed still running in New Orleans. Over the years they've outrun mules pulling carts of tourists, Mardi Gras floats, and every team to visit the Sugar Bowl from Notre Dame in 2007, a race they describe as "about as close as you would expect," to ironically, again in 2019. The pair were asked about book ending their decade long sprint with another Georgia squad to which they said, "they talked about wanting to be in the playoffs, but it's like, bro, you think there's not Clemson dudes who are still running all over the place? And they've only been there for like what, three years? You don't even lose a step before year eight."
Slayton and White were both glad to stop running, describing themselves as "pretty tired," after thirteen years. They asked about the 2005 USC team who they both suspected to still be running following the 2005 Orange Bowl. "Anybody stop those guys?" White asked. Rodriguez laughed, "only the NCAA."