Plumlee balancing football recruiting with successful baseball season

By CAMAL PETRO,

The name John Rhys Plumlee shouldn’t be an unfamiliar one by now. Whether on the gridiron or the baseball diamond, Mississippians who follow even an ounce of high school sports have heard his name before.

Locally, the Oak Grove junior busted onto the scene as a sophomore quarterback who had highlight reel after highlight reel in 2016. He followed the success of that season with more jaw dropping plays as a junior, including a 90-plus-yard touchdown scamper up the middle against rival Petal.

It didn’t take long for fans of Southern Miss, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama, Auburn and many more to wish for his future services. Fans could see Plumlee on both the football and baseball fields, too, and of the dozen-plus schools that have offered a football scholarship, his future football college playing position has varied.

There’s no doubt a big decision looms for Plumlee, but there are also many layers to his decision.

“It makes it kind of tough,” Plumlee said. “So really, I’m picking between quarterback, slot (receiver) and (defensive back), then from that, I’m picking baseball or not. I have a lot of thinking to do.”

Think about a high school junior having to make that life-altering decision, then look at Plumlee’s baseball statistics.  While he’s going through the most important spring of his football life, he’s currently leading the diamond Warriors with a .518 batting average (29-of-56), 29 runs, 27 RBI, 11 doubles, a triple and a pair of home runs, one being a grand slam.

In 17 games, he’s had three games where he went hitless – but still reached base in two of those – and has 11 multiple hit games.

“I don’t really know what’s a whole lot different,” Plumlee said. “Last season, I was pressing. I really wanted a high batting average, so I was really focused on that. This year I’m up there more like, ‘I’m just going to hit it,’ so it’s working out for me right now. I’m not changing much, and we’ll see how it goes.”

The Oak Grove Warriors are currently 11-6 overall with a 4-2 mark in Region 5-6A. The Warriors have definitely had their growing pains, but the two-year starter is doing everything he can to help lead Oak Grove’s young team.

He’s doing all of that while taking trips to colleges and football camps. Plumlee listed at least 10 schools he’s visited this spring and he attended Nike’s The Opening camp in Atlanta last week.

“With the baseball season, every Saturday I’ve had a baseball game,” Plumlee said. “For spring break, we did a lot of traveling. When we had an open day, it was kind of like, ‘Where are we going?’”

Being a two-sport athlete in college is very much on the table for Plumlee. The three-star dual-threat quarterback, according to Rivals.com, holds more than a dozen football scholarship offers, and the baseball programs at half of those schools have expressed interests in him playing baseball, too. With baseball scholarships limited for some schools, more notably the Mississippi programs, a team could have his bat in the dugout while not taking up scholarship space.

He can’t tell exactly how interested some schools are about joining the baseball team, he admitted, but he did say Southern Miss, Ole Miss, Auburn, Tulane and North Carolina have had conversations with him about the possibility.

“If I have the opportunity, I definitely want to play,” he said. “I know it’s a lot to do, so I really, at least, want to try it. If I can do it and handle it, I’ll definitely want to continue doing it. I’m always going to try to at least see if I can.”

Whatever Plumlee is doing to manage football recruiting and the baseball season, it’s working. He has Division I head football coaches wanting him to visit their campuses, and he’s getting on base 63 percent of his at-bats. Both, he could say, are too good to be true.

“I guess through a lot of prayer,” he said when asked about how he’s handling everything. “I feel really blessed to have all of these offers for football, but with baseball, I guess I’m just seeing it well at the plate.

“It’s going pretty well, for sure.”