OXFORD, Miss. (AP) -This is how Mississippi's Jevan Snead imagined it would be.
He's the starting quarterback for the No. 8 team, his photo is on the cover of Sports Illustrated and his name is in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy.
It may have taken him longer to get here than he expected, but he doesn't mind.
``I wouldn't want it to be any different,'' Snead said.
It was clear the 6-foot-4 Texan with the quick-draw right arm found where he belonged when he finally hit the field as a starter. After two lost years waiting it out - first as a backup at Texas, then in Oxford because of NCAA transfer rules - he led Ole Miss to a No. 14, a 9-4 record and a Cotton Bowl win over Texas Tech.
``The way it has gone in my life, it definitely didn't happen the way I pictured it with the whole transfer thing, but it really couldn't have worked out any better for me,'' Snead said.
The prep All-American was set to sign with the Florida Gators, then a kid named Tim Tebow entered from the wings. His home state Longhorns seemed like a better option. He enrolled at Texas early, but Colt McCoy had a head start and wouldn't step aside. Soon after the 2006 season Snead packed his bags.
After sitting out 2007, Snead passed for 2,762 yards and 26 touchdowns with 12 interceptions as a sophomore at Ole Miss, getting better with each game.
He beat Florida, tossing two touchdowns and rushing for another in a 31-30 win, the game more famously known for Tebow's postgame speech that spurred the Gators on to the national championship.
He even showed McCoy how it was done with three TD passes against Texas Tech - the team that knocked the Longhorns out of national title contention.
The bowl victory capped a six-game winning streak during which Snead had 16 touchdown passes against three interceptions. That burst showed the big arm and athleticism that led scouts to predict major college success for him coming out of Stephenville, Texas.
Many thought Snead would overtake McCoy in the competition to replace Vince Young as the Longhorns' starter in 2006. But McCoy won the job and Snead couldn't get on the field.
rally fell short.
Snead didn't want to wait around, though. Then-Rebels coach Ed Orgeron persuaded him to make the Mississippi Hill Country his next stop. Snead's reputation preceded him. The Grove was filled with ``wait till next year'' while Snead sat out his transfer season.
Orgeron didn't have the luxury of time, though. Ole Miss won only three games and he was fired.
Houston Nutt took over for Orgeron and the quarterback and coach quickly found they could relate. Like Snead, Nutt had been a college quarterback who transferred from Arkansas to Oklahoma State when it looked like playing time would be scarce in Fayetteville.
When Snead hit a midseason slump and the Rebels were 3-4, Nutt stepped in to pick him up. He told Snead to slow down, to stop trying to make every play.
``I love his nature and the fact that he is very cool,'' Nutt said.
Snead's coaches and teammates said by the time the season was over he was no longer chasing the quarterback ideal, but had become it.
``I go by work ethic,'' Nutt said. ``I remember last year he took the receivers and really worked hard, and he did the same this summer. That's what you go by. You go by his attitude and work ethic and I think you see that when you talk to him. He is a very humble guy.''
iver Dexter McCluster calls him ``a character.''
``He had to earn his stripes, but how he stepped up and led us last year shows his leadership ability,'' wide receiver Dexter McCluster said. ``And I also feel he has a connection with everybody, from the receivers to the running backs to the defensive line.''
How long he'll have that connection remains to be seen. Some predict Snead would be a high draft pick should he decide to skip his senior season. Snead sidesteps questions about his future like blitzers without ruling it out.
``Honestly, I really don't have a lot of time to think about that sort of stuff right now,'' Snead said. ``I'm just trying to do everything I can to help my teammates out right now. Whatever happens happens.''

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