The deadline for juniors to declare is Jan. 15, meaning Treadwell, the star Ole Miss wide receiver, will soon have to set his future path. But, perhaps surprisingly, his decision of whether to stay in school or forgo his senior season and head to the pros isn’t cut-and-dry.
Not by a long shot.
“I’m just waiting it out, one day at a time,” he said. “If I do get that specific feeling or that gut feeling that I should leave or stay, then I’ll go with that. Nothing has drawn me away from school. Nothing has really told me to come out this year besides all the predictions and all that. Just taking it one day at a time, enjoying this time with my teammates.”
Treadwell knows the projections. “Everyone always brings them up to me.” He’s a consensus first-round talent by all major scouting publications. ESPN has Treadwell as its No. 1 wide receiver and No. 11 prospect overall. But every time he’s reminded of where he ranks or what is being said about him, he changes the subject.
Because he’s not quite ready to think about the next step. Ole Miss is in New Orleans this week for the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma State Jan. 1. The game, possibly his last in a Rebel uniform, has all of his focus.
“It is a big step for me,” Treadwell said. “It is a big step for my family and this program, of course, being some of the first guys in (Ole Miss head) coach (Hugh) Freeze’s class to go in the first round and get drafted or whatever. I just try to take it one day at a time and enjoy the moments I do have with my teammates if this was my last time with them.”
Tight end Evan Engram announced two weeks ago he’s returning for his senior season. Similar to Treadwell, though, getting to the point of choosing one side over the other wasn’t easy, and he can tell Treadwell is dealing with the same factors.
“It was tough for me just how bad I wanted (the NFL),” Engram said. “I had a goal of being three-and-done as well. The thing about this place, we have a brotherhood here. We’re a family. I’ve had the time of my life playing here, as has Laquon. It’s kind of scary to know you’re leaving this. You’re going to be on your own - whole new team, whole new surroundings, whole new coaching staff, whole new offense, whole new lifestyle. It’s kind of scary. I can tell just by talking to him about it. He’s praying about it, and I’m praying for him as well. It’s definitely a tough decision. For me, I’m at peace with it. I can’t wait to win this bowl game and get back to Oxford and start preparing for next season.
“But it’s definitely a tough decision. It feels good to get that weight off my shoulders, but I can definitely tell he’s going through it right now.”
Treadwell is a former five-star prospect. Scout.com had Treadwell as the top wide receiver in the country coming out of high school in 2013, and he’s more than lived up to the ranking. He was a Biletnikoff Award finalist this season as the only SEC receiver with 1,000 yards, and he’s the active SEC career leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches.
He always envisioned being a three-and-done player, even if his season-ending leg injury a year ago put some doubt in his mind. Freeze even pitched three-and-done during Treadwell's recruitment. Yet the time has arrived, and Treadwell is on the fence, despite all the hype surrounding him.
“This year just motivated the team a lot more,” he said. “We were really just a step away from actually getting into that SEC championship, playing for the playoffs. Coming back for all that and enjoying moments with the team. You rarely get a team with great chemistry and team bonding. No matter where we go, we’re always bonding and having fun. I haven’t been on a team like that since my senior year of high school. It’s been like that the three years I’ve been here. It’s really tough.
“Coming out of high school, three-and-done was the plan. With the injury, it kind of put it in the back of my head, ‘All right, I got to get back to work, and if I don’t come back as healthy, I’ll have to do another year.’ The goal is here. The plan is in front of me, and it’s kind of harder now because that is the next step. Being able to actually say you have the chance to go either way is the tough part about it. You love the guys you’re around, but you do want to take care of your family at the same time. It’s head-to-head, and it makes it tough. Makes it difficult.”
Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly would certainly like to have Treadwell back. Though Kelly hasn’t announced whether he’ll be back for his senior season, he’s at least talking as if he’ll be the Rebels’ quarterback again in 2016.
“I would love to have him back next year, of course,” he said. “I’m always telling him, ‘Hey, you can come back next year, too.’ If he’s a first round pick, you kind of almost have to go. Unless you want to come back and get your degree and enjoy college, you’re really bound to go to the NFL. That’s what it’s made for.
“You’re at a great university. You love the people that surround you. You love your players, you love your coaches. You would die for your players. Over the last couple of years, I’ve kind of gotten to know ‘Quon and knowing how much of a leader he is on this team and off the field, he’s a great overall person. He would help us tremendously in a leadership role, and of course on the field.”
For now, Treadwell is enjoying Sugar Bowl week. Ole Miss will take on Oklahoma State at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN, the only primetime bowl game on New Year’s Day. Treadwell will be a focal point, as he always is. He’s lived his life in the spotlight for nearly four years now.
And if it’s the last time he’ll don his No. 1 red and blue jersey, well, he’ll certainly be going out on a high note. He’s on pace to break Ole Miss single-season records for catches and receiving yards, having helped the Rebels defeat Alabama, Auburn and LSU in the same season for the first time in program history.
Not to mention getting the Rebels back to the Sugar Bowl for the first time since 1970.
“Once the bowl game is over,” he said, “I’ll go back home and see what I’m feeling, see what my family’s feeling and go from there.”