Evan Engram reflects back to his recruitment over two years ago.
He wasn't overwhelmed by big time offers, but even if he had been, he knew where he wanted to go - Ole Miss.
"My high school coach had been to a lot of practices and meetings and clinics with Coach (Hugh) Freeze and we ran a lot of the same things as Ole Miss did at my high school," Engram explains. "I was used in the same role the Ole Miss coaches told me I would play here.
"I was a tight end who moved around a lot. Sometimes I'd block from a traditional tight end position, sometimes I'd be on a wing, sometimes in the slot and sometimes split out wide for deep routes. When Ole Miss made me an offer, I wasn't getting a lot of big time looks, but that didn't matter - I knew where I wanted to be."
Last season was Engram's freshman year. The Rebels had lost two veteran tight ends in Jamal Mosley and Ferbia Allen and there was definitely an opening for immediate playing time.
But Engram didn't think he would have the instant impact he did.
"It was a challenge, coming in to an SEC program as a true freshman and knowing I was going to have to play a role," he noted, "but that's what I like - challenges. It motivated me to work hard and play a role and not let my team down.
"It was the perfect storm for me, though, and I had to take advantage of it."
QB Bo Wallace knew immediately Engram was going to have an impact.
"I want to get the ball to 17, just to put if bluntly, and I have felt that way since the day he stepped on campus," Bo noted emphatically. "He's phenomenal, in the run game and in the passing game, and he has been phenomenal since his first day.
"His freshman year we really needed a tight end due to graduation. I knew he would have to play and we saw right away he was going to be special."
Wallace saw what Engram did - a great fit.
"He's a mismatch problem for any defense. How do you cover him? With a linebacker? He's faster than them. With a safety or corner? He's more physical than them. In this offense, he has the perfect skill set for what we do."
Engram burst on the scene in 2013 with 21 catches for 268 yards and three TDs in eight games before an injury ended his season.
"You saw what happened last year when he went out," Wallace closed. "Evan was just getting in a groove and starting to be a huge part of our offense and then he's gone. I'm not sure we ever overcame his loss."
Engram is still haunted by having to miss the last five games of the season.
"We were just starting to get some chemistry, Bo and I, and even though we have other great receivers, I felt I was coming into my own and could join the ranks of Donte Moncrief and Vincent (Sanders) and Quon," he said. "It really hurt to be out."
During Engram's rehab and offseason, he had one goal in mind - get stronger.
"I knew there were times my freshman year when I wasn't forceful enough in the blocking game because I wasn't strong enough," Engram allowed. "I worked hard to put on a few pounds, but mostly to get stronger and I think I did that.
"I was a better blocker this year."
And healthy the whole season. . .
"I credit that to the strength staff, getting me in better shape and getting me stronger," he stated.
In 2014, Engram was surrounded by a bevy of quality receivers in Laquon Treadwell, Sanders, Cody Core and Quincy Adeboyejo, so his numbers are not eye-popping.
Evan had 37 catches for 651 yards and two scores, but it was after Quon and Sanders went down that his true value was exhibited.
In the Egg Bowl, Engram took over, catching five passes for 176 yards and setting up two short TD plunges.
"We had a great practice week and that carried over to the game. My energy level was through the roof because I knew I had to be a part of taking up the slack for Quon and Vincent not being out there," Evan added. "All the routes fell in place, Bo was clicking and I knew I had to make some plays for my team.
"Again, it was the perfect storm."
TCU Defensive Coordinator Dick Bumpas knows what the Horned Frog defense is facing in Engram.
"Mismatch. That's the word that comes to mind when I think of Engram. How do you cover him? He presents major problems for defenses," Bumpas said.
Engram took that as a compliment, which it was.
"I sort of lick my lips when I see a linebacker on me, but TCU has some very athletic linebackers who can run," he noted. "I'm sure they will have a great plan. They have a really good defense and always have had great defenses."
Evan looks forward to the task at hand.
"Losing Quon and Vince is huge, but Markell (Pack) and Quincy are ready to go and they want the chance to step up. I think they will," said Evan. "We've been giving them good guidance and our older guys are leading them the right way.
"I think they will get the job done. Their confidence has grown and they are ready to make a name for themselves."
The perfect storm. . .
Engram's recruitment into a system that matched his skills to a tee. . .
The maturity to handle the situation from the start. . .
A quarterback who trusted him from the first day of August practice his freshman year. . .
Coaches who knew to lean on him when others were no longer available. . .
A desire to step up for his team in crucial situations. . .
That's Evan Engram.
OM Spirit Top Stories
RYH: Bill Armstrong Talks Ole Miss BasketballIn this edition of the Rebel Yell Hotline, Chuck Rounsaville and Yancy Porter are joined by Ole Miss assistant basketball coach Bill Armstrong to discuss the upcoming season. Plus,…
OM SpiritYesterday at 8:12 PM
Ole Miss Searching for Defensive LeadersWhen asked if he felt his team was pulling apart, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said he would never let himself believe that at his weekly press conference on Monday.
OM SpiritYesterday at 4:40 PM
Playing On An EdgeOle Miss entered the 2016 season with high expectations. Entering the season the Rebels were ranked #12 in the AP Top 25 and were favored by many to compete with Alabama for the…
OM SpiritYesterday at 4:01 PM
Freeze Pleased With Strong, HibblerDespite struggles at the linebacker position this season, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze has seen some positives from two backups.
OM SpiritYesterday at 3:27 PM
Freeze Frames: ‘We’ve got to fight’Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met the media Monday afternoon for his weekly press conference.
OM SpiritYesterday at 9:48 AM