The junior Ole Miss wide receiver has strung together a school-record four-straight 100-yard receiving games, and he’s the Southeastern Conference leader in receptions per game (6.8) and receiving yards per game (96.7). He’s also the fastest Rebel ever to 2,000 career yards.
There’s nothing normal about Treadwell and the numbers he’s putting up. Not at Ole Miss. He needs 18 catches to overtake Chris Collins for most career catches. Put simply, he’s a monster on the field, which is a stark contrast to the soft-spoken, even-tempered person off. Football drives him, but it doesn’t define him.
But if it did, he’d be second to none considering how good he’s been.
“I try to not let the game define me as a person,” he said. “On the field, you’ve got to flip a switch and it’s time to go. But outside the field, you’ve got to be humble about everything and appreciate the people around and the people you do encounter. You know, make sure they’re having a good day. It’s easy to have a great day after you win. But when you’re losing, those are the same people who will try to bring you up, too. I just try to appreciate everyone I come across and leave a good image on them.”
There have been few more dominant players at their position in college football than Treadwell this season. But it’s his growth in his every-day life that has caught the attention of his teammates, namely fellow junior Evan Engram.
“His growth is off the field with his spiritual life and how he makes decisions and how he is as a leader,” he said. “It’s starting to pay off for him. I think last year, him going through that, we attack adversity so much in this world with the stage we’re on and a lot of different curveballs thrown our way, especially him and what he’s been through. It’s been a matter of time, and I feel like he’s had this talent all along. Now he’s putting it on stage.”
Everything changes when Treadwell takes the field. His demeanor. His relentlessness. His passion.
And nothing surprises him. Name a game-like situation, and he’s probably worked it in practice, or in his after-practice sessions with Ole Miss graduate assistant Robert Ratliff, a former Rebel quarterback. Take, for example, his game-clinching, 21-yard touchdown reception in a 27-19 win at Auburn, which was splashed across ESPN and every other major sports news outlet.
With a defender draped over his back, Treadwell hauled in a finger-tip catch on a perfect throw from Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly. It was the final touch of the game for Treadwell, who finished with 114 yards. His ball flip once he popped up only acted as the exclamation point.
As impressive as the reception was, though, it was rehearsed. Treadwell is nothing if not a stickler for the details, and it all comes back to work ethic. He learned the level at which he needs to train and practice in his recovery process from a season-ending leg injury last November.
“You’ve got to be competitive in football,” Treadwell said. “I took it for granted. I was always competitive last year, and I came out and tried to play my best. But I didn’t key in on the little things. I’m more mentally strong now. I don’t let one play affect me, I don’t allow the game to get too big for me. When I get into a game, I never feel like it’s too big for me. Any play they call, I feel like I can break a play or make a big play or make a big catch, in any type of coverage. The chances I do get to make those plays, I’m expecting to make it. It goes to working hard outside of practice, after practice. Like the catch I made in the end zone (against Auburn), I worked on that in practice the whole week. So when I beat him and I saw it, it wasn’t as hard as it looked because I was working on it the whole week.”
“I’m used to it,” Engram said of the catch. “We stay after practice every day, and this season he’s really been focusing on over-the-shoulder, locating the ball and tucking it into the tuck. I told him after the catch, ‘This is why we stay after practice. Times like this is when it pays off.’ And it did. It’s normal. He’s a beast.”
Treadwell said much of the credit for his improvement should go to Ratliff, a reserve in his time at Ole Miss, but who’s worked with Treadwell all season. Treadwell said Ratliff always harps on him after practice about getting the little things right - from keying in on the ball to framing the catch and tucking.
He managed all three in that one catch alone.
“I wanted that one,” Treadwell said, acknowledging that the win meant even more to him considering he suffered last season’s injury in a brutal loss to Auburn. “I was just waiting on it. Sooner or later, I was getting in that end zone. I mean, I didn’t even think about it. It was natural. I knew it was a big game for me and the team. Winning and taking another step towards an SEC championship, we were just determined to win. I got a chance to make a play and I made it, and it’s all because of the work I put in during the week.”
“He’s always been the monster he is,” Engram said. “I think it’s a confidence thing with him now. I always mess with him about his ankle. He’s so paranoid. He thinks it’s not back 100 percent. I’m like, ‘Dude, you’re tripping.’ I always mess with him about that.”
Treadwell is likely in his final year at Ole Miss. NFL Draft projections have him pegged as a first-round selection, and Treadwell is doing nothing but cementing his status atop most every draft board.
So Ole Miss fans should enjoy one of the greatest players to don Red and Blue while they still can. The Rebels (7-2 overall, 4-1 SEC) have three games remaining on their schedule, and will host Arkansas Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on CBS. If they win out, they’ll reach Atlanta for the SEC championship game for the first time.
Treadwell is only thinking that way.
“Just trying to make a play every time I get the ball, fighting for extra yards. When you get a chance to go get the ball, you’ve got to make a play,” he said. “We’ve just got a more competitive edge. Everybody’s playing balls to the wall and taking it one game at a time. The results and the production is showing. We’re winning.”
“It’s a mentality thing with him,” Engram said. “Whatever’s at task, he’s going to get the job done, and he demands it of us, too. He holds me accountable in so many ways as a leader, as a play-maker, as a tight end, as a receiver. He’s at the top of his game right now, and he’s focused on being consistent. And he has been.”
But Treadwell believes he can be better. No, really.
“No,” he said, when asked if he’s playing the best football of his life. “As far as my body-wise, no. Production-wise, probably stats. But I can get better. I’m having difficulties coming in and out of my breaks, so that’s something I can get better on.”
For opposing defenses, that’s a scary thought.