A balancing act: How Plumlee excels as two-sport athlete

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Whether he’s running into the outfield at Swayze Field, under center at Vaught Hemingway Stadium, or even lined up in the slot like he was at the Outback Bowl, Ole Miss QB/OF John Rhys Plumlee has proved he can do it all. It was an easy adjustment for him out of high school.

“I think it was coach Matt Luke who said ‘you’ve been doing this your whole life, now you’re just surrounded with better athletes,'” Plumlee said.

Plumlee’s policy is simple. When one sports season ends, his focus shifts to the other. Some crossover is mixed in; during football he finds time to take swings in the cage and during baseball he sits in some football meetings to balance it out. While he has excelled at both, he has faced some challenges along the way.

“At the beginning of baseball season, guys have been getting at bats year round so it takes me two or three weeks to get back to seeing the ball well,” Plumlee said. “You recognize pitches and you get better as the season goes along and that goes for everybody.”

Head football coach Lane Kiffin has had a few QBs who also played baseball in the past. The most notable one was USC’s Matt Cassel, but Plumlee has separated himself.

“He’s very unique obviously,” Kiffin said. “How many guys can play slot receiver with a week or two notice in a bowl game and make significant plays?”

Baseball coach Mike Bianco has been impressed with Plumlee’s ability to balance both sports.

“The other part is to come over to another locker room and be a leader and able to jump into the team and have them welcome you. We’ve had a few football players but no one has spent more time in the cages or in the locker room,” Bianco said.

Plumlee’s future in both sports is uncertain, but he’s in no rush to give up on either of them.

“If you really want to go far in one, you have to settle on one. I’m gonna ride both until I can’t anymore. Probably until it becomes a business decision at that point,” Plumlee said.

He said the experience has given him a clearer look at the big picture.

“You need to sacrifice things that don’t mean the most to you to really build things that mean a lot to you,” Plumlee said.

Whether he plays slot receiver or QB for Kiffin in the fall is currently uncertain. Regardless of the outcome, Plumlee will continue to enjoy the ride.