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Experience helps Evan Engram lead Ole Miss teammates on and off the field

Experience helps Evan Engram lead Ole Miss teammates on and off the field

OXFORD, Miss. – This summer, Evan Engram expressed his goals of winning the Southeastern Conference Championship and possibly a national championship. Though No. 21/23 Ole Miss is off to a bit of slow start, the Rebels’ senior tight end is not giving up.

After the loss to No. 1 Alabama, Engram told his teammates that everything will be just fine.

“I said in the locker room after the game that we have to play for ourselves from now on,” Engram explained at Monday’s press conference. “We play for ourselves and take care of ourselves. Right now, we have to win one game at a time and see what happens.”

Senior leader brings experience, focus to teammates

Through three games, Evan Engram leads the nation's tight ends in receptions with 20. (Photo credit: Joey Brent, The Rebel Walk)

Through three games, Evan Engram leads the nation’s tight ends in receptions with 20. (Photo credit: Joey Brent, The Rebel Walk)

As a senior leader, Engram is the perfect person to speak to younger players who may not have experienced the ups and downs that come with playing in the SEC. Engram has encountered several tough losses throughout his career but knows the value of continuing to work hard to achieve team goals.

Last year as a junior, Engram and the Rebels lost a heartbreaker to Arkansas in double overtime, following a miraculous 4th-and-25 conversion by the Hogs that continued what was ultimately the Razorbacks’ winning drive. However, Ole Miss rebounded and steamrolled to victory over Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl and Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl, a prestigious New Year’s Six Bowl.

As a sophomore, Engram saw Ole Miss relinquish leads at LSU and at home against Auburn, resulting in two gut-wrenching losses for the Rebels. But as they did in 2015, the team pulled together and earned a spot in the Peach Bowl.

So, facing adversity is nothing new to the Powder Springs, Georgia native, and those past tribulations are helping Engram deal with what has, thus far, been a tough September for the Ole Miss team.

All offseason, we were talking about the SEC Championship and winning the national championship. Right now, that’s a far cry from where we’re sitting right now. The most important thing is, first of all, that’s not out of the picture. Anything can happen, but we have to focus on winning one week at a time.

Evan Engram

Engram knows the challenge is to stay the course and prepare for each game, one game at a time.

“We have to focus on small things, attention to detail, staying sharp in practice, preparation, and winning one week at a time,” he said.

The gauntlet of talented teams Ole Miss (1-2, 0-1 SEC) has faced in the month of September isn’t over yet. The Rebels play No. 11/12 Georgia (3-0, 1-0) this Saturday, a program led by first-year head coach Kirby Smart.

The Bulldogs are first in the SEC in turnovers (8) and turnover margin (plus-3). Sophomore defensive back Juwuan Briscoe has anchored Georgia’s defense so far, recording two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble through the first three games of the season.

They’re a good team. They’ve got a lot of talent, and they move around really well. They have athletes up front, especially on the ends. They have linebackers that can run in space and crash to the ball. Defensive-wise, they’re going young and fast, and it’s going to be a challenge.

Evan Engram on Georgia Bulldogs

Engram leading the nation’s tight ends

Engram and his teammates celebrate his touchdown against Alabama. (Photo credit: Joey Brent, The Rebel Walk)

Engram and his teammates celebrate his touchdown against Alabama. (Photo credit: Joey Brent, The Rebel Walk)

Engram is accustomed to squaring off against talented defenses, and he fared well against Florida State and the Crimson Tide. Against the Seminoles, Engram had nine receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown. Against Alabama, he had nine receptions for 138 yards and a score.

Currently, Engram leads the nations in receptions (20) and receiving yards (302) by a tight end–making an early case for winning the John Mackey Award. That honor is given to the collegiate tight end who best exemplifies the play, sportsmanship, academics, and community values of NFL Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey.

I just go out there and if my name is called to make a big play, I want to. That’s a big part of being a leader of the team, leading by example. Leading vocally as well, but making plays downfield and being more utilized has definitely been a plus for our offense.

Evan Engram on being a leader

Engram discusses being recruited by Georgia

When asked if the Bulldogs heavily recruited him, Engram replied, “Not really. I talked to them a few times, went on a trip but it wasn’t like an invite only, it was kind of like a big weekend where anybody could come. They really weren’t big in my recruitment.”

Georgia ultimately recognized Engram’s talent, but by then the tight end was already a solid Ole Miss commit.

“They came around toward the end of my senior year when I was playing really well, but I was solid with Ole Miss then so I really didn’t pay it any mind.”

(Feature image of Evan Engram scoring touchdown against Alabama: Joey Brent, The Rebel Walk)

About The Author

Courtney Smith

Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men's basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.

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