Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Ole Miss football/baseball star John Rhys Plumlee relying on faith amid uncertain QB role

John Rhys Plumlee could play quarterback for Ole Miss this season. He could also play wide receiver, running back or anywhere else he’s needed.

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The multi-sport star is preparing to do whatever it takes to help Ole Miss win next season, and he’s relying on his faith in the process. In an interview with the Ole Miss Spirit, Plumlee β€” who also plays baseball at Ole Miss β€” said he and head football coach Lane Kiffin talked this offseason about what his role would be for his junior season. He started eight games at quarterback as a freshman, but served as the reserve quarterback and was also used as a running back and a receiver some last season.

“We had a conversation after baseball season, before I got to go home just for a little bit,” Plumlee said. “We had a talk and he basically said that they want to use me in multiple, different spots. Whatever that may be, whatever that may look like, whether it’s receiver, running back coming out of the backfield, a little bit of quarterback. Whatever helps the team win, I think is the phrase he used.

“Whatever will help the team win is what we’re going to do. It was a good conversation. I prayed on it, and I thought it was the right thing to do. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Plumlee had a stellar freshman season under center, garnering freshman All-American honors by The Athletic and 247Sports. He holds the Ole Miss freshman rushing record with 1,023 yards and also tallied 16 touchdowns that season β€” 12 rushing and four passing. But in 2020, he watched as Matt Corral started all 12 games.

With Plumlee’s playing time slipping and his role uncertain, there were rumors that he might transfer. It wasn’t something he considered much, but he said having baseball season to help distract him from the chatter helped. He wanted to just be present and live in the moment.

“Thankfully I had a getaway (with baseball),” Plumlee said. “I didn’t get to play as much as I wanted to last year (in football), and as a competitor, it was really frustrating to sit and kind of wait for an opportunity. But an opportunity arose late in the year.

“Going into baseball I had to kind of get my mind off of it. I focused on baseball so I could be a baseball player during baseball season. Once baseball rolled around, I got focused on baseball. It wasn’t like I was at baseball thinking on what was going to happen with football. I think it’s always been like that, whether it was for football or baseball, for me.”

That opportunity for Plumlee came in the Outback Bowl, where he filled in at slot receiver for eventual second-round pick Elijah Moore, who opted out of the bowl game to focus on the NFL draft. Plumlee caught five passes for 73 yards, rushed for a four-yard gain, and completed a four-yard pass to help Ole Miss beat No. 7 Indiana.

He said his success in that game made it a little more comfortable for him to envision his new utility role. But didn’t shy away from saying it was difficult to be patient and watch last season. His faith was big for him, he said.

“The way to describe it is it was hard. It was tough. It was a tough year for me,” he said. “I kept finding strength in Proverbs 3, 5 and 6. It says, ‘Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, not on your own understanding. With all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will guide your path.’ I just kept finding strength in that verse. That’s what I had to do. I had to trust in Him, because I felt as though I was doing all that I could do. At that point, I had to give it to the Lord.

“Last year, you can say, wasn’t my year. I didn’t get utilized as much as I wanted to, but we’ll see what the plan is and God’s plan for me this year.”

Whatever his role ends up being, Plumlee said he’s committed to Ole Miss for the long haul.

“This is home … My buddies are here,” he said. “Baseball was huge for me. A lot of it went into my decision. I had to do some praying about it … I had wants. Did I want to play more? Yeah, that’s there. The idea that I could play somewhere else, obviously comes into your head. I just had to keep going back to Proverbs 3.”

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