Plumlee working hard, relying on his faith as he fills much-needed role on Rebels’ receiving corps
OXFORD, Miss. – It was the old television show “Cheers” that proclaimed it was a place where “everybody knows your name.” It is a lot like that for a high school football star. But after their “Friday Night Lights” days, those prep phenoms move on to college and often find themselves in a numbers battle, doing what they can to find playing time.
Ole Miss dual-sport star John Rhys Plumlee relates to that situation, where players work hard and bide their time until it is their turn to shine again.
“As a young guy, coming out of high school, I think a lot of guys – myself included – like you’re the best player at your school, you’re getting recruited by an SEC team, you’re kind of a big deal where you’re from, like people know your name and everything,” Plumlee said Tuesday afternoon.
“And then you come into here where it’s like everybody was recruited by an SEC school…you kind of see some kids come to the realization, ‘okay, I got to get to work because everybody’s good here.’
So you see a lot of those guys look at Drum (Dontario Drummond) and looking at Bray (Braylon Sanders) and looking at (Jonathan) Mingo, seeing how hard they work and they’re like, ‘All right, if the best guys on this team work that hard, then I sure got to work hard too.'”
John Rhys Plumlee
No one would ever question how hard Plumlee works.
After injuries to Drummond, Sanders and Mingo, last week was a time for Plumlee and fellow receiver Dannis Jackson to take advantage of their opportunities for action in the Rebels’ 27-14 win over Liberty.
Jackson led all receivers with 126 yards receiving and a touchdown against the Flames, while Plumlee had a game-high seven catches for 110 yards.
2 to 10 for a 32 yard gain.
20 RAC yards from JRP here pic.twitter.com/zAYAU5Zfs2
— TeeJay (@TJOxley1) November 6, 2021
It was Plumlee’s best day as a wide receiver and head coach Lane Kiffin said the reason for the Hattiesburg native’s performance was his work in the week of practice before the game.
Plumlee agrees with his coach.
“You feel like you prepare really well every week, whether or not you’re in the gameplan or outside the gameplan, because you kind of have a feel of who’s going to be targeted and all that good stuff.
I felt like I did have a good week of practice. It was reassuring to know that, hey, I’m in the gameplan, like going to be targeted some and that always helps your mindset a little bit.“
John Rhys Plumlee
Plumlee also ran the ball twice from his slot receiver position. It was essentially the second time he had seen significant playing time at receiver since moving from quarterback prior to last season’s Outback Bowl.
In that 26-20 bowl win over Indiana in January, Plumlee grabbed five passes for 73 yards and his 44-yard reception set up the winning score.
This season, Plumlee has 16 catches and averages 11.25 yards per reception.
From Quarterback to Receiver
Plumlee believes he is still a work in progress, doing all he can to make the transition from quarterback to wide receiver in order to help his team.
“As a quarterback…this is kind of how I explain it,” Plumlee began. “I know where I am supposed to be, know exactly where I’m supposed to be, know what everybody’s routes are, where everybody’s aligned, I know the scheme, I know the scheme really well,” Plumlee said. “It’s about getting to the places that you need to be in a timely manner, while creating space,” he added.
“Last year in the bowl game, you kind of got a little taste of it, it was like, oh this isn’t just like running in a straight line and going to that spot right there. You kind of have to get yourself open a little bit, and this year has kind of been like a learning curve.“
John Rhys Plumlee
Getting better every week
Plumlee knows he is improving as he learns more about the intricacies of his new position. “I try to get better every week in something, whether it’s watching the ball all the way into my hands because at first I had a tendency not to track it all the way in, trying to make a guy miss who was 10 yards down the field. You have to watch it all the way in,” Plumlee explained.
“If it’s man coverage, you have to get their hands off of you. It’s little things that not everybody knows about and that I, myself, didn’t really expect to have to learn, but I’m learning something new every week for sure,” he added.
“I’m Truly Blessed…”
Plumlee also talked about how he has handled a season that up until last Saturday might not have gone quite how he thought it would.
“You kind of expect one thing and then you get the other and I’ve learned to trust the Lord through it all,” Plumlee explained.
“In Proverbs 3:5-6 it says, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will guide your path.’
So whether or not I’m in it or out of it, I still realize that I’m truly blessed to be an SEC school, a D1 school playing football, doing the thing that I love.”
John Rhys Plumlee
With the Ole Miss receiving corps still banged up, Jackson and Plumlee will be counted on as the No. 12 Rebels take on No. 11 Texas A&M at 6 p.m., at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday.
The game will be televised on ESPN and with the national audience, chances are once the game is over, everyone will know Plumlee’s name.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.