Growing up in the south suburbs of Chicago, Laquon Treadwell didn’t grow up inside of the sphere of influence that is the SEC. He didn’t learn the words to Rocky Top, tailgate in The Grove or Call the Hogs. He wasn’t a part of that life, and then suddenly he was having committed to play his collegiate football for the Ole Miss Rebels.
A highly-coveted five-star recruit from Crete-Monee high school, Treadwell fielded offers from all over the country but eventually bought into what Hugh Freeze was selling: a chance to build something from scratch at Ole Miss. It couldn’t have been what he envisioned, but it was a dream realized nonetheless.
However, when the football dream becomes a reality and you wake up weary-eyed in a place so different from what you’ve known nearly 600 miles from home, you find yourself forced to learn on the fly, not just on the field but off.
Truth is, on the field has been the easy part for Laquon Treadwell. The true freshman burst onto the scene with nine catches for 82 yards in a thrilling 39-35 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores on college football’s opening night. Treadwell’s career was off and running.
And now, nearly one month later, after wins over Southeast Missouri State and the Texas Longhorns, Laquon Treadwell leads the 3-0 Ole Miss Rebels in receptions. However, on Saturday Laquon Treadwell’s growth as a football player and relocated Southerner comes to a head when the 21st-ranked Rebels travel to Tuscaloosa to take on the No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.
Inside Bryant Denny Stadium, Treadwell will be exposed to all the aspects of SEC life he missed out on as a kid–the passion, the volume, the intensity and the shear magnitude all weighing on the 18-year old in his first SEC West game. Meanwhile, on the field he’ll be facing the most physical and intimidating football team he’s seen to date.
And the way Laquon Treadwell ultimately handles all this will be paramount for the Ole Miss Rebels as they seek a victory that could announce their presence as contenders to the rest of the division, the conference and the country.
From a matchup standpoint, Treadwell is exactly the kind of receiver that presents problems to the Alabama Crimson Tide. He’s a big, able-bodied receiver with strong hands, deceptive speed and a knack for making people miss in the open-field. Think of a smaller version of Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver Mike Evans–you know… the one who torched Bama to the tune of 279 yards two weeks ago–with even more raw talent.
And while Mike Evans is a more polished receiver in his second full season in the SEC, there is reason to believe that Treadwell could have a similar impact. Alabama’s secondary is undersized with the departure of Dre Kirkpatrick for the NFL, and the Crimson Tide have had difficulties with big receivers like Treadwell.
They’ve also had issues with uptempo offenses, and while Bo Wallace is far from Johnny Manziel, Ole Miss’ tempo certainly rivals that of Texas A&M, and the Rebels will certainly be looking to work quickly against the Alabama Crimson Tide. All that circles back to Laquon Treadwell.
If the true freshman can avoid the culture shock of walking into a packed SEC stadium (sorry, Vanderbilt but… c’mon) against this era’s most dominant program to have a big game, Ole Miss’ chances of pulling off the monumental upset increase exponentially. However, having grown up in the south suburbs of Chicago, that’s not something we’ll know about Laquon Treadwell until we know it.
That’s not something we can gauge until he takes a look around that stadium and decides to embrace the SEC identity or cower from it. And even though he couldn’t have ever imagined what he’s about to face on Saturday, every kid who grows up playing football dreams of a chance to play in the big-time conference and prove that he’s a big-time player.
Laquon Treadwell’s chance–not necessarily his only chance, but certainly his first–comes now.