2017 was a great year to be a Rebel in the NFL. In a season that looked to be overshadowed by external controversies, there were a number of Ole Miss football alumni who shined at the next level.
Brandon Bolden (2008-2011)
Despite being down 10 points in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship game, nothing could stop Tom Brady and the Patriots from making another Super Bowl. This time, Belichick and company will travel to Minneapolis to face the Philadelphia Eagles. The lone Rebel in this Super Bowl matchup is, yes, you probably guessed it, running back Brandon Bolden. Despite not cracking the 100-yard rushing yard mark for the third consecutive year, Bolden finds himself in position to win his third Super Bowl ring. The first two times, Bolden also finished the season with under 100 rushing yards. Maybe it’s an omen?
Jermey Parnell (2004-2008 with basketball team)
On the losing end of the Patriots’ incredible 20-10 comeback were the Jaguars and offensive tackle Jermey Parnell, who once donned the red and blue for Andy Kennedy’s basketball team. As one of the leading members of the Jacksonville offensive line that dominated so many games, Parnell started 16 games, including all three of the team’s playoff games.
Laquon Treadwell (2013-2015)
Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and the Minnesota Vikings ended their season on the worst note they could imagine: a 38-7 blowout loss to the Eagles. Despite being on one of the most surprising offenses of the year, Treadwell found himself overshadowed by Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs’ breakout seasons. In his second season, Laquon found himself with a greater role in the offense, grabbing 20 receptions for 200 yards.
Eli Manning (2000-2003) and Evan Engram (2013-2016)
The two most notable NFL Rebels are New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and his tight end, rookie Evan Engram. Despite playing for the same team, these two players experienced polar-opposite seasons. With the Giants finishing 3-13, Manning quickly came under pressure in what was likely his final season in New York. Despite losing his consecutive start streak, he went 352 of 571 for 3,468 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
On the other hand, Engram was one of the breakout rookies of 2017. Despite Manning’s struggles and the loss of the Giants’ top two receivers, Engram had 64 receptions for 722 yards and six touchdowns, good for fifth in tight end receiving yardage. For Engram, this looks like the beginning of what could put him in the list of tight end greats one day.
Mike Hilton (2012-2015)
One of the top defensive rookies of this season was Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Mike Hilton, who put up incredible numbers in his first season. Quickly becoming one of the leaders of the Ryan Shazier-led defense, Hilton recorded 64 tackles, 4.0 sacks, one forced fumble, two interceptions and six passes deflected for the Steelers. Could a defensive rookie of the year honor be in his future? Only time will tell.
Mike Wallace (2006-2008)
Despite being an underrated wide receiver, Mike Wallace led all Rebels in receiving yards, with 748 yards and four touchdowns for the Baltimore Ravens. Though nearing the end of his career, Wallace continues to demonstrate his value on any offense.
Donte Moncrief (2011-2013)
In Indianapolis, after posting elite numbers in the past, Moncrief recorded just 26 receptions for 391 yards and two touchdowns this season. Moncrief’s hope for the future? The NFL draft and a new quarterback.
Laremy Tunsil (2015)
In Miami, offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil started 15 of 16 games in 2017-2018 and continues to prove that drafting him was no mistake. In a season that began with the loss of Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins finished 6-10 with Tunsil playing a key role in most every win.
After a season that featured many Rebels’ breakouts and many more on the verge of their own, the future looks bright. One of the biggest questions still to be answered over the offseason is whether Eli will return to New York. With teams like Jacksonville and Denver looking like possible destinations, the two-time Super Bowl champion could find himself with a new home and a great opportunity to continue to succeed.