Rob Park hopes to punt for Rebs

Freshman from MUS has worked this summer to replace the graduated Cody Ridgeway as the Rebels' punter.

Cody Ridgeway is gone after four years, and the punting spot is up for grabs for the Ole Miss Rebels of 2005. Freshman Rob Park is set to make a strong run at those duties.

The Memphis University School graduate has been in Oxford all summer working out and getting better. Now that fall camp has begun, the 6-foot, 185-pound Park is ready to try to win the job.

"I know I have to compete and line up with the rest of the punters," said Park, who also played quarterback for the Owls. "I don't think anybody has a head start. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all plays out, and hopefully I can earn the spot."

Park, who as quarterback and punter last season helped lead MUS to its first Tennessee state title since 1985, put in a lot of effort this summer to try to be the leader of the pack in the punting department.

"I did a lot of running and lifting. I worked with Sidney McLaurin (the long snapper) and also worked some as the holder for Justin (Sparks, a Rebel placekicker candidate)," Park said. "So I got all that down better. And I worked on stretching and conditioning, getting ready for this camp."

For Park, that the punting position was open was all the more reason for him being in Oxford at this time.

"The fact that they lost Cody was a big factor (in him coming to UM)," said Park, who averaged 38.1 yards per punt as a high school senior and 41.0 yards per punt for his high school career. "I knew they needed a punter, and it was important for me to go to a place where I could compete for the punting job. It's a great opportunity at Ole Miss for me."

As a lifelong Ole Miss fan, it's a special time for Park as he competes to be the man when the Rebels have it fourth down and need to give the ball back to the opposition. When the Rebs open in his hometown of Memphis on national TV on the afternoon of Sept. 5, Park hopes to be the one called on.

"I've come here for games all my life, and I've always watched the players walk through the Walk of Champions," he said. "I guess I never really imagined I would take part in it someday. Now that I'm here, I want to do my best. It's all very exciting for me."

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