[Premium article] When Coach Sherrill says it is hard to catch you in a phone booth, you better have big play potential and be able to make people miss. Freshman Ray Ray Bivines has both.

"I guess he means I'm quick and I'm illusive," Bivines said about the quote. "You can't touch me when I'm running the ball."

Bivines said it makes him more comfortable when he is returning punts to know the coach has that much confidence in him. Bivines said, "It feels good the way he (Sherrill) talks about me like that."

Sherrill has reason to sing the praises of the freshman standout. Bivines already leads the team in punt return yards for the year with 66. He has another 40 on kickoffs, and that is in limited action in that role.

Of course there is good reason for all this talk about Ray Ray. Coming out of high school he was ranked as the number eight receiver in the country by Rivals.com. Prep Star magazine said he was the number six athlete in the South, and Max Emfinger named him as the number two quarterback/superathlete in the South.

Unfortunately this is the first time State fans have been able to see Bivines on the field. He missed the entire 2000 season with knee surgery. Bivines said this helped take some of the pressure off him coming out of high school.

"My first year I missed the whole year and that threw me off a bit," said Bivines. "I just wanted to get back on the field as soon as possible. I'm really just learning right now."

Like all athletes, Bivines hated having to watch the season from the sideline. He said, "I wanted to play bad, but I couldn't because I just got out of surgery. It was hard for me because I really wanted to play, especially right out of high school."

Missing that season with the injury only made Ray Ray work harder to get back to where he was on the field. Bivines said, "I wanted to work hard and get my knee back in shape to be ready for the next year." Ray Ray certainly has the heart and the work ethic to go along with the talent. He is not going to let an injury keep him down for an extended period of time.

Another big step in his career came with the permanent move from quarterback to receiver. Bivines led his high school team to an undefeated season his senior year as a quarterback, but when he came to State his calling was at the other end of the throw. Bivines has handled the change very well.

He said, "I tried quarterback and it was alright, but I just wanted to play receiver when I got up here anyway. I just want to run good routes and make catches, and then run for big yardage after that." Obviously this football season is a disappointment, but Ray Ray is determined to work hard. Bivines said, "Now it makes me work hard just to get better for next year."

Bivines has even more incentive to work hard because Clarence Parker and Harold Lindsey are both in their final seasons with the Bulldogs. Their departure will open up opportunities for Bivines to earn a starting spot.

"Those guys are a big part of the team this year," Bivines said. "I don't know what is going to happen next year but we are going to be ready." Bivines said he still needs to work a lot harder than he is, and said he still has a lot to accomplish while he is here.

Ray Ray definitely has the big play ability of a star receiver. He feels that when he gets the ball he can make a big play. He also realizes that he needs to keep working hard to be able to accomplish his goals on the field.

There is an air of confidence about him, but also one of determination and desire. That is the kind of combination you are looking for on the football field. Bivines said to the fans, "just look for number 10 flying up and down the field," and if he keeps working as hard as he is that is exactly what you will see.

Hank Allen is a free-lance correspondent for Gene's Page. Hank is a student at Mississippi State University. He is also a reporter for the student newspaper, The Reflector. You can contact him by email at jha1@msstate.edu.

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