Risk/Reward: Golson Wins Out

Everything changed for former Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson nearly four years ago.

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The deadline for Golson to sign a professional baseball contract was approaching, some two months after he was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the eighth round of the MLB First Year Player Draft. He had a decision to make. And not just any decision; a life-altering one.

The Red Sox offered Golson a multiyear contract well above slot position for an eighth-round pick. The final offer came in around $1.4 million. Golson, in Boston for negotiations, waited about as long as he could with an 11 p.m. CT deadline looming.

“It got close for me to sign,” Golson said in a previous interview with the Ole Miss Spirit. “I was actually in the room, looking at the numbers on the paper. Man, they were some long numbers, a lot of zeroes behind it.”

He ultimately decided to return to Ole Miss to play football and baseball, and Friday he was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round, pick No. 56, of the 2015 NFL Draft. The No. 56 pick in the 2014 draft, wide receiver Cody Latimer of the Denver Broncos, signed for $3.7 million, including $2.25 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of $1 million.

Safe to say Golson made the right call.

“I have said many times, and so has Senquez, when we first got here, he was immature and lacked the focus and work ethic needed to get to the next level,” Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. “He had excellent physical skills and that let him play at a high collegiate level, but he didn’t have the intangibles.

“Through the course of three years, I saw him blossom into a man and the end result was a senior season where he not only had 10 interceptions and made first team All-American, he became a leader on our team.”

Golson is the highest Ole Miss draft selection since Dexter McCluster was taken in the second round (36th overall) by the Kansas City Chiefts in 2010. He’s the first Rebel drafted by the Steelers since Mike Wallace in 2009, and he’s the first Rebel cornerback selected since Trumaine McBride in 2007.

“With the way Senquez approaches things now, I believe he will transition into the NFL very nicely,” Freeze said. “The scouts seemed a little concerned with his height, but they got over that pretty quickly after they watched film and saw what he could do at the combine. They saw him compete against the big receivers in the SEC, the same guys who will be going to the NFL with him, and hold his own and that’s all they needed to know. Another reason I believe Senquez will do well in the pros is that he comes up big in big moments. There is no bigger stage than the NFL.”

Golson was the Rebels’ first consensus and unanimous All-American since Michael Oher in 2008 after he led the SEC and finished second nationally with a school-record-tying 10 interceptions as a senior last season.

Golson was a three-year starter for the Rebels, whose NFL Draft history includes 281 draft picks and 19 first-round selections. Golson finished his Ole Miss career with 16 total interceptions.

“He’s got ball skills and ability,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said on-air following the selection. “In this league, they don’t care about your size anymore. He’s pound for pound one of the best players in the draft.”

Golson was a two-way star for Pascagoula High School in Pascagoula, Miss., where he was considered a “toolsy” baseball prospect with great speed. Some scouts described Golson as an 80 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale. He started 15 games as an outfielder for Ole Miss in 2012, totaling 13 runs scored, five RBI and five stolen bases.

Golson said in December he had practiced his hitting as recently as a week before the Egg Bowl in November, a 31-17 win over in-state rival Mississippi State. Golson had six total tackles and a pass breakup in the game.

However, he finally had to accept reality shortly after the Rebels concluded their season in the Peach Bowl. Preparations for the NFL Draft would interfere with his baseball pursuits. The Senior Bowl, for example, was around the same time as the opening series of the college baseball regular season. There could be no more delaying, hoping he could somehow find a way to balance both.

Baseball was over.

“This was what I was supposed to be doing,” Golson said. “Education was a big thing. I knew (Ole Miss) was where I wanted to be. I made a commitment to Ole Miss. I love Ole Miss.

“Everybody asks me if I regret (turning down the Red Sox),” he said. “I haven’t regretted it since the day I turned it down.

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