The threshold from “child to adult” can be subtle or dramatic.
Some ease into adulthood and mature over time. Some have an instant epiphany. Some have a difficult time with it, others ease into it like a comfortable pair of house shoes. Some are forced to grow up before their time due to the circumstances of their lives. Some remain childish longer for the same reason. Some never do and drift their whole lives in Disneyland.
Everyone is unique and there’s nothing “wrong” with whatever path one takes to adulthood, but there is one thing for certain, you know it when you see it.
Take Ole Miss senior Cornerback Senquez Golson, for instance.
After coming to Ole Miss in 2011 as a highly-touted and supremely-gifted two-sport (football and baseball) athlete, the sky appeared to be the limit for the 5-9, 180-pounder.
In baseball, he was a five-tool prospect coveted by the Boston Red Sox who turned down over a million dollar signing bonus so he could pursue football and baseball on the collegiate level.
In football, it was projected he would be an instant starter as a true freshman in 2011. He wasn’t quite that, but he did play in all 12 games and started four, pretty heady stuff for anyone.
That spring, for the Rebel baseball team, he had 15 starts in the outfield, but couldn’t seem to get it going at the plate and decided to stick with football for the immediate future.
The next year, a new staff – Hugh Freeze and company - came on board for the Rebel football team. Golson immediately grabbed the attention of the new crew for his talents, but they had issues with his work ethic.
To them, he was “coasting,” getting by on natural ability but not doing anything more than what was minimally required.
The defense was cornerback-poor, and Senquez always seemed to perform when the lights came on, so, in a way, the coaches were held hostage and basically had to play him.
Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack didn’t mince words about the situation. While he chose his comments carefully, the underlying message was clear. Because of his minimalistic approach to the game, and immaturity, Golson was only scratching the surface of his ability.
Senquez suffered some hamstring issues and nagging injuries at times, but on Saturdays, he was all in, and he performed well, starting six games as a sophomore and 10 as a junior.
“Senquez is so gifted and has such good instincts, he rarely got beaten at the toughest position on the field to play,” Wommack noted after Golson’s junior season.
Still, there was an itch that nobody could seem to scratch. Was Golson going to be satisfied his whole career being good when most everyone around him knew that he could be great? Was the natural ability he possessed going to be all he’d ever give or we’d ever see? When would he take a mature approach to the game of football and realize he could be wasting a golden opportunity to do something special?
One can only guess at the “trigger,” maybe it was just his time to become a man or maybe he realized the 2014 season would be his last chance to show the “whole” Golson, but the light came on for Senquez last spring training.
From that point on, it seems, he dedicated himself to the team, first, and to getting better and reaching his potential second. His work ethic took a 180-degree turn for the better and the real Senquez, Senquez the man, emerged.
As a result, Golson has five interceptions through six games and leads the SEC by two in picks at the halfway mark of the season. His five steals are second in the nation to Louisville’s Gerod Holliman, a safety, who has seven through seven outings.
He has also been a physical presence in run support on the highly-ranked Ole Miss Landshark defense with 19 tackles.
But this is about more than his football prowess, as Freeze explains.
“One of the truly great things about coaching is watching a player mature as a person during their four or five year career,” said Freeze recently. “To watch how Senquez has grown into a man is very rewarding. I can’t tell you how proud I am of the maturity he has shown this year.
“He has become one of our leaders, he sets an example with the way he works and he’s totally about the team. Socially and academically he has grown up as well, which is just as rewarding to me.”
Growing up. Child to adult. Boy to man.
One never knows when it’s going to take place, that natural evolution of life. It takes some longer than it does others, but one thing is apparent.
Senquez Golson is no longer a boy.
He’s a full grown man.
Welcome to adulthood, Mr. Golson.
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