Jack-of-all-trades Rebel senior Dexter McCluster is facing one of the most difficult challenges he has seen as an Ole Miss football player.
He has "wagered" Strength & Conditioning Coach Don Decker about his body weight.
If Dex doesn't get to the 180-pound mark prior to the opening kickoff of the 2009 season, Decker can cut off his dreadlocks, which he has been growing for four years.
"I've been challenged," said McCluster, who now weighs 170 pounds but played most of last season at 165. "I have to get to 180 before the season or I lose my dreads.
"I've never been that weight before, but I trust Coach Deck and the weight staff wouldn't ask me to do something that would hurt my performance. If that weight does hamper my speed any, it would be easy to trim down a little."
In the meantime, McCluster has joined the pantheon of those recognized by their first names, ala Eli, Deuce, Peria, Archie.
His do-everything ability and his flair for the extraordinary have garnered him get-out-of-your-seat reactions every time he touches the ball.
Yet, he remains Dexter, a humble, team-orientated player.
"Wherever they need me, I'm going to go out there and do it," McCluster stated. "I like getting the ball a lot, but it's all about whatever it takes to help the team the most. That's what I want to do."
For now, Dexter is working out with the wide receivers, but as we all know, there will be a role for him at tailback and as the quarterback in the Wild Rebel formation.
"I'm working out with the wideouts in the offseason. I feel pretty natural at running back and there's not a lot to learn, but at receiver you have to stay crisp on your routes so that benefits me for now," he noted.
McCluster's main goals for spring training once again center around the team concept.
"I'm a senior now and I want to develop into a leader like the seniors before me," Dex said. "I want guys to be able to look to me as an example of the way things are done.
"We have great chemistry on this team and are having so much fun now. We can't wait to go to workouts, to practice, to 5:30 a.m. workouts - it's all fun, the way it's supposed to be, and we want to keep that rolling."
Dexter stays motivated with a simple thought - nothing is guaranteed in college football. As unrealistic as it sounds, McCluster keeps it in the back of his head that even he could lose his job if he slacks up any.
"We've got a lot of young guys here and coming in who want to take my job and nothing is set in stone. You can lose your position in a blink of an eye if you let up," he says. "I want them to learn something from me and maybe I can learn something from them, but competition is what it's all about and I intend to stay sharp."
Unfortunately for Rebel fans, we will all be witnessing McCluster's last year at Ole Miss in 2009.
He can't wait.
"Being in this offense for a year should help us all. Coach (Houston) Nutt and Coach (Kent) Austin always put us in the right position to makes plays and they are great play callers," Dexter added. "It's exciting to be a part of that offense and that system."
There's no question, if healthy, Dexter McCluster will be a huge part of the Rebel offense in 2009.
The only question that remains in his case is if his signature dreadlocks will still be draped on his shoulder pads when he's running to glory.
"I agreed to the challenge and I don't like losing," he laughed. "We'll see."
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