If you watch an Ole Miss football or baseball game on TV, you are likely to hear something similar from the commentators.
“John Rhys Plumlee and Jerrion Ealy are two-sport stars. They make their presence felt on the grid as well as on the baseball diamond.”
Ole Miss has a history of athletes doing multiple sports while on campus, a history that includes legendary quarterback Archie Manning, and there is another baseball player waiting in the wings of Mike Bianco’s recruiting class who loves football.
Kaden Irving from Gautier High School (Miss.) Has had ripple effects in the recruitment world of baseball, but this fall he will make an impact as Gators quarterback as well. The Gators are currently 2-0 on the season with victories over other Mississippi teams Provine and Pascagoula, and a large part of that success is an honor to Irving. The Gautier signalman has thrown 672 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions in two games, including six scorecards in the team’s 52-41 victory over Pascagoula.
Gautier is a 5A school, the second highest classification in football in Mississippi, but has never appeared in a state championship since the Mississippi High School Activities Association moved to a playoff format in 1981. Irving obviously hopes to change that in his junior and senior seasons.
“It was my best game of my high school career,” Irving told SI All-American about the team’s victory over Pascaougla. “At one point in the match we were down to two touchdowns. So we came out after the break, just fought and scored very quickly – that was something that was great.
“If you were there, it was one of those people who grabbed your popcorn and watched the match one night. It was a fun game.”
We would be mad if we did not mention the work of SI All-American’s John Garcia Jr. as for Irving. Garcia wrote a story for SI and called Irving “Freak Of The Week” for week 2 of the high school football season. You can find that story here.
Irving, when he sat down with Garcia, made sure to emphasize that baseball and football are not competing interests in his mind. In fact, his baseball skills have helped his football career so far.
“Baseball has saved my ass many times in football,” Irving said. “The other night I roll out to the left, and if I throw it over the top, it would probably have been caught or knocked down by the D-end, but I managed to go to the side arm track. It fits in windows where it is not possible. to throw out of one arm. “
The throwing movement for baseball and football is different, but having experience with both can give a versatile athlete in both sports when difficult throws are required. Tough throws in football are common, but Irving has taken advantage of the opportunities so far on Gautier, including last season when he threw 2399 yards and 15 touchdowns paired with five interceptions in his second campaign.
As you can see from simple math, Irving is well on his way to crushing his existing touchdown mark from a season ago.
Even with this great success on the grid, Irving has not always had a deep love for football. It was something he discovered later in his childhood athletic career.
“When I was growing up, I tried to play as many sports as I could, baseball, football, basketball,” Irving said. “There was just something about baseball that I absolutely loved. I did not start to like football until in the eighth grade, when I saw that I was pretty good at it. Since then it has been football and baseball, the things I like to do .
“I started playing football around 4 years old, but it didn’t interest me that much. I was always interested in baseball as a child.”
It should be a sign that is welcome for Ole Miss fans. Irving’s football skills are documented, but it is his baseball talents that have made him a sought-after recruitment across the country. Irving turned many heads on a baseball showcase over the summer and broke some records along the way.
Showcases are not always an option for Irving due to his football duties, but there is a good chance that his attendance this summer can change his future for the better.
“When I came in this summer, I was nationally known, but did not get the attention like any of these other guys in my class,” Irving said. “I’m an athlete with double sports, so I can not go to all the showcases in baseball out of season.
“I came to one this summer and my numbers were off the charts. I ended up beating a Perfect Game junior national record for exit velo (velocity) and I played well in the fights. I beat 102 (miles per hour) My rankings were dramatically better, and people started calling me every day. “
For the curious, the average exit speed in the Major Leagues is 89 miles per hour. The pitching and level of play in the Majors is certainly higher than what had a showcase, but Irving’s performance this summer gives an idea of what he is capable of on the diamond.
As a Mississippian with noticeable baseball talent, it was Irving who committed to Ole Miss, the fulfillment of a childhood dream, which included Rebel head coach Mike Bianco.
“Ole Miss is definitely one of the best places in the country to go,” Irving said. “As a kid, I always wanted to grow up and be a baseball player in Ole Miss and play for Mike Bianco. I was having a Christmas break in ninth grade.”
Of course, as is the case with many opportunities in Irving’s shoes, his placement in the MLB draft after high school will influence his decision to come to Oxford.
“[I’m projected] somewhere during the first three rounds, “said Irving. This summer was huge for me on my draft. “
If Irving ends up in Oxford, there is a chance he will play both football and baseball in his collegiate career, but he makes the decision day by day and does not hurry.
“I’ve had some conversations with the staff,” Irving said. “They love me, but it’s about the actual thing about football, and if there’s something I want to do. I’ve talked to a lot of schools, they’re just trying to figure out if I want to play football or not. Every time I talk to someone coach, is it like: ‘do you really love football?’
If the answer to that question is “yes”, can Ole Miss have another double sports star waiting in the wings? Head coaches Mike Bianco and Lane Kiffin have both shown a willingness to let athletes play both sports while on campus. Why can the same not be done for Irving if it is decided that he can also help the rebels on the grid?
“It’s just one of the things I have to figure out over the next year,” Irving said. “I have a lot of big decisions to come.”
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