Hugh Freeze didn’t have the heart to tell him.
The third-year Ole Miss head coach had acted quickly, rushing to the side of his star wide receiver, Laquon Treadwell, in the south end zone of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Treadwell, as everyone in attendance and those watching at home could see, had obviously suffered a severe injury in the final minutes against Auburn Saturday.
Moments before, Treadwell did what Treadwell does, turning a short screen pass into a 19-yard gain that was initially ruled the go-ahead touchdown. Only he was caught from behind by Tiger linebacker Kris Frost, and his ankle rolled in a way no ankle should roll.
“Did I get in the end zone?” Treadwell asked. “Did we win?”
Only he didn’t. Replay officials ruled he was not only stopped short, but he fumbled as well. Auburn recovered and went on to win 35-31.
Freeze visited Treadwell in the hospital the next day. The sophomore, one of the more talented players at his position in the country, didn’t have much to say. Not that he ever really has much to say, being the quiet type that he is.
“Coach, I just can’t believe I didn’t get in,” Freeze recalls Treadwell, who had surgery to repair a fractured fibula and a broken ankle, saying.
Freeze wouldn’t let him get much further. Because without Treadwell, a former five-star prospect, Ole Miss wouldn’t have gotten this far – to 7-2 and still in the conversation, albeit on the outside looking in, of the SEC West and the College Football Playoff.
Treadwell ended his season with 48 caches for 632 yards and five touchdowns. All led the team. His recovery time, according to Freeze, is about four months, though it could be longer depending on how Treadwell responds. All players are different.
“We would not even be in the discussion of the magnitude of these games without your play and without your leadership,” Freeze said he told Treadwell in the hospital. “I told him to forget about that. He is moving on. (Wednesday) is his first day back around the team. He’s ready to help coach these receivers up.”
Ole Miss, No. 11 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, needs his leadership. Yes, he is only in his second season, but Treadwell is already a team leader. His loss will be felt on and off the field.
The Rebels are the highest-ranked two-loss team, ahead of four one-loss teams from power-five conferences, including Baylor, Nebraska and Ohio State in the race for the playoffs.
“It's been a difficult weekend for our kids to respond, but I think they will," Freeze said. “We've got to get back up and get ready to play Saturday. You put so much into this from the kids' perspective and the coaches' perspective to have a chance in a game that has such magnitude, it's a great teaching moment. Hopefully we're going about it the right way, teaching them the things we need to about life.”
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