Former Ole Miss offensive lineman rocked by bizarre draft night

CHICAGO, Ill. — On a night that was supposed to play out like a dream, Ole Miss offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil was instead dealt a nightmare.

Tunsil, not two months ago, was widely considered the likely No. 1 overall selection. But trades of the first two picks triggered a slide, and it was only made worse by a bizarre video posted on his personal Twitter account just minutes before the Los Angeles Rams were on the clock for the first pick Thursday night.

Tunsil later said he was hacked, though he confirmed he was the person in the video and deleted his account, only to rejoin the social media platform shortly afterwards to issue a public apology. Not even an hour later, his Instagram account was hacked, and Tunsil was left to answer questions about everything besides the realization of his lifelong NFL goal.

“Somebody hacked my account,” Tunsil said following his selection. “I found out when I got in the green room. I don’t know who it was. I’m not saying any names. Crazy things happen. I didn’t know about it at all. I don’t know who it was.”

The Miami Dolphins took the now-former Rebel left tackle at No. 13, but not before two other tackles were picked before him. Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame was taken by the Baltimore Ravens at No. 6, and Jack Conklin of Michigan State went to the Tennessee Titans at No. 8.

“I’m going to show everybody what type of person I am,” Tunsil said, adding in an interview with NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders he never once failed a drug test in college or during the NFL Draft process. “I’m going to put everything on the line. (The Dolphins) don’t have to worry about anything.”

There are certainly questions regarding the validity of the Instagram messages, namely the time stamps in the alleged texts, which could be reasonably argued as potentially fake or doctored. Apps are also widely available that allow users to create fake text conversations.

As reported by the Ole Miss Spirit, the alleged exchange between Tunsil and Ole Miss assistant director of operations John Miller could also be considered legal and common. 

An “opportunity fund” is available to all athletics programs to help players in financial need. Any money players receive is on a need basis and is part of the opportunity fund. There is also Pell Grant money and federal assistance funds players can apply for in times of need. Miller, assistant A.D./high school and junior college relations Barney Farrar and assistant A.D./player development Tom Luke help players attain such monies by helping players fill out the proper forms. All monies from such funds have to be approved through compliance.

But those are questions for another day. For what became one of the strangest nights for a draft prospect in recent memory, Ole Miss and NFL fans alike were left with the words of Tunsil himself. Tunsil initially denied the authenticity of the text conversation, though he followed with confirmation.

Initially asked if the Instagram conversation was real:

“I wouldn’t say all that,” he said. “I wouldn’t say that.”

Asked again:

“Those were true,” he said. “Like I said, I made a mistake of that happening.”

He was quickly removed from the post-draft stage. In an undisclosed follow-up interview, he reportedly said he couldn’t hear the question and didn’t understand it.

“The University is aware of the reports from he NFL Draft regarding Laremy Tunsil and potential NCAA violations during his time at Ole Miss,” read a statement issued by an Ole Miss official. “Like we do whenever an allegation is brought to our attention or a potential violation is self-discovered, we will aggressively investigate and fully cooperate with the NCAA and the SEC.”

The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Tunsil was a three-year starter for Ole Miss, earning All-America second team honors last season. After sitting out the first seven games due to an NCAA suspension, Tunsil returned with six starts at left tackle. The Rebels went 5-1 and averaged 201.7 rushing yards, 514 total yards per game and one sack allowed per game.

Without Tunsil, Ole Miss averaged 104 rushing yards, 411 total yards per game and three sacks.

“That was one of the worst things,” Robert Nkemdiche, selected by the Arizona Cardinals at No. 29, said of his Ole Miss teammate’s situation. “That’s how this world is. You have to be very careful. You have to stick to the plan and stick to your goals in front of you. Everybody’s not for you, and you’ve got to know yourself and stick to the plan and focus on what needs to focus on.”

“You can’t trust everybody,” Tunsil said. “But I’m blessed.”

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