Last weekend, A.J. Brown shattered the Ole Miss school record for receiving yards – not a bad start to the season.
Brown’s averaged 29 yards per reception, totaling 233 yards on eight catches. To put this landmark in perspective, Brown totaled 412 yards last season. In the first week, he already surpassed the halfway point to his previous record.
Brown has handled the spotlight well so far; his impressive first season led into a promising Grove Bowl, where he led all receivers with 133 yards and a TD on five catches. With on-field success arriving early and often, the sophomore hopes to continue enjoying Oxford’s game day atmosphere.
“I can’t explain it, but it was definitely a different vibe,” Brown said. “I could tell before the game that we were going to play well. I could feel it. I just knew it.”
The confidence emanating from the Rebels’ young squad, stoked by a decisive victory over South Alabama, has helped to qualm fans’ fears after a tumultuous offseason. Head coach Matt Luke had supportive words for his team, most notably for its high-scoring offense, after the win.
“Shea was really solid all night, and A.J. Brown made two big-time plays to start the second half,” Luke said. “For me, it was emotional when I came out of that tunnel on the field, but once the game kicked off, football is football.”
But football isn’t the only thing on Brown’s mind. The wide receiver was selected in the 19th round of the 2016 MLB draft. The San Diego Padres chose Brown, an outfielder by trade, after Baseball Factory ranked him as the No. 50 high school player in the draft. Still under contract with the Padres, Brown retains his amateur status in football due to specific NCAA rules enabling two-sport athletes.
This wouldn’t be the first time Ole Miss Athletics housed a two-sport, professional athlete. Senquez Golson, former Ole Miss cornerback, was drafted by the Red Sox in the eighth round of the 2011 draft, offering him a $1.35 million signing bonus, per ESPN.
Brown will look to continue last week’s upward trend, focusing on football while taking his yearly baseball hiatus. He has big shoes to fill, especially after last week’s performance, which left Brown as the national leader in receiving yards per game.
With the receiving corps Ole Miss starts with this year, known amongst itself as NWO (Nasty Wideouts), offensive talent is plentiful. Brown, Damarkus Lodge, Van Jefferson and D.K. Metcalf all have the size and athletic ability to drive the UT Martin Skyhawks back to their nest Saturday morning. Their collective skillset should strike fear into any opposition’s defense.
This weekend’s game kicks off at 11 a.m. Saturday in Oxford.