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Evan Engram's Ole Miss coach says he "does it right"


*Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze discussed his former player, Giants' first round pick TE Evan Engram:  *

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze keeps what he calls a "distraction list" for his football team.

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If you miss a class, you're on it. If you walk in late to the weight room, you're on it. If you're Evan Engram, you're not on it. And that's the only place where the Giants' first-round draft pick was unnoticeable in his four years as a Rebel.

"You get so excited when a kid does it right," Freeze said following the first night of the draft. "I do. The example that he's been on this campus, not just on the field but off the field and in the classroom -- I can't ever remember in his four years here him ever showing up on the distraction list, a list that is something that distracts my attention from where it needs to be."

Engram, a Georgia native, arrived on the Ole Miss campus in 2013, the same year the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center was named in honor of his future NFL quarterback's parents. He played in eight games at tight end with six starts in his first season and, along with left tackle Laremy Tunsil, became one of the first two true freshmen in school history to be named All-SEC. He did that in spite of missing the final five games of the regular season because of an ankle injury, a stretch where Ole Miss went 3-2 and scored just 20 points in two losses to close the conference schedule.

"Our entire offense changed," Freeze said. "We were nowhere near the same, so I knew his value at that point."

Engram returned from the injury and started in the Rebels' 25-17 victory over Georgia Tech in the Music City Bowl.

With an offseason to heal completely, Engram broke out as a sophomore and led the nation's tight ends with 17.4 yards per catch while setting the single-season program record for receiving yards at the position. That set him on a path to become the all-time Ole Miss leader in receptions (162), receiving yards (2,320) and touchdown catches (15) by a tight end. He also became the first player in school history to earn All-SEC honors four times, wrapping up his career as the nation's leader among active tight ends in career receiving yards.

"It started back in the recruiting process," Freeze said. "It's almost embarrassing for me to tell you exactly how it happened, but he was just not recruited. Sometimes we coaches foolishly buy into that. That kid that is near the Atlanta area doesn't have the offers that some have. I loved him and talking with him. He was determined to come to our camp and earn a scholarship. He came to our elite camp and totally dominated the camp. I almost messed this whole thing up because I knew what my eyes saw, but at the same time I was wondering why no one was really on this kid.

"When I didn't offer him at the camp, he literally cried on his way home. He'll tell you the story. Thank God two days later I said, 'I know what my eyes saw.' I picked up the phone, got him on the phone and offered him. Thank God we did. That says a lot about him. He came and he earned the scholarship and he earned his improvements in speed, size and in crafting his skill. He earned being a first-round draft choice."

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