When Lane Kiffin met with his football team Saturday night prior to Ole Miss' first practice of the preseason on Sunday, he had a confession to make.
Kiffin, now more than 30 pounds lighter than he was at the end of last season, said it was hypocritical to ask his players to be more committed to taking care of their bodies when he himself was overweight.
"I saw a picture of me at the bowl game last year and told the players I looked like an anaconda that had swallowed a deer and the deer got stuck in its neck," Kiffin told ESPN in his best self-deprecating tone.
Kiffin said the players howled at his analogy, but he wanted them to know that he was serious about the discipline that it's going to take for the Rebels to make another move this season after going 5-5 a year ago in Kiffin's first season in Oxford.
"That goes for all of us, starting with me," Kiffin said. "Here I am in postseason meetings back in January telling my offensive linemen and other guys that they needed to eat better, lose weight, get in better shape, and I looked like a whale."
Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral, who passed for 3,337 yards and 29 touchdowns last season, said the entire team has been inspired by Kiffin's weight loss.
"We really saw his weight change," Corral said. "He dropped a lot of weight since January, and as players and seeing him go through that process, it just makes us more disciplined and helps us buy into the values and principles of the organization."
Kiffin remembers seeing a picture of himself, quarterback John Rhys Plumlee and Kiffin's father, Monte Kiffin, from the Outback Bowl last season in Tampa, Florida.
"My dad's 81 and still looks great, and then there I was," Kiffin quipped.
So Kiffin, 46, got to work thanks to a strict diet and exercise routine that included Pilates and yoga, and he also started running again. At one point, the 6-foot-3 Kiffin said he got up to 245 pounds, but he is now closer to 210.
During the team meeting Saturday, he said the players joked that he almost looked ripped.
Kiffin wasn't going to let his assistant coaches off the hook, either. He said he took several of them to a medical facility to have their body mass index (BMI) measured. The doctor told offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jeff Lebby that he needed to lose 88 pounds to get down to an ideal BMI.
Kiffin said he retorted, "Come on, give him something realistic," to which Lebby deadpanned, "Eighty-eight pounds? That's a 12-year-old."
Kiffin added that the entire staff is having a weight loss competition between now and the Rebels' Sept. 6 opener vs. Louisville, with each coach putting $200 into a pool. The winner takes all.
At least one of the pictures of the heavier version of Kiffin has been removed from the walls of the Ole Miss football complex.
"Gotta keep it up, because when I look at myself from last season, it was disgusting," said Kiffin, who was an avid runner when he landed his first college head-coaching job in 2009 at Tennessee.
Kiffin said accountability is one of the overriding themes for Ole Miss entering the 2021 season. Earlier in the day, he said Ole Miss had reached a 100% vaccination rate against COVID-19 among current players, coaches and staff members within the football program.