Most critical ankle sprain in Rebel history
Deuce McAllister scored 41 touchdowns for Ole Miss and 49 more for the New Orleans Saints.
The Ludlow community native, who played high school ball at Morton, remains the leading rusher and touchdown scorer in both Rebel and Saints history.
Little wonder Deuce will be inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame on July 25 in his first year of eligibility. (You must be retired for five years or have reached the age of 50 years old to be eligible for the MSHoF.)
As a journalist, I covered Deuce at both Ole Miss and in New Orleans. I have seen him when he could run past people, around people and over people. I saw him run, catch and throw touchdowns. I saw him adjust his running style — to far more power than speed — after several knee surgeries. Even when slowed by those cranky knees, he was an All-Pro calibre running back.
Deuce was always accessible, always honest with the media. He was so much fun to cover.
And I thought I knew everything there was to know about him until last week when he came here to speak at the Wendy’s High School Heisman Awards Ceremony and do the interviews that will be used for his induction ceremony and for his exhibit here on our touchscreen kiosks at the museum.
Here’s what I didn’t know:
Deuce was down to Ole Miss, State and Alabama during his recruitment and then eliminated Alabama because, “They were honest with me. They told me if I went there I would play defense. They saw me as a safety or linebacker. I wanted the football.”
Deuce says he grew up mostly a State fan but chose Ole Miss because “Tommy Tuberville did a good job of recruiting me and honestly I thought I would get more playing time early at Ole Miss. State was pretty set at running back (Keffer McGee, J.J. Johnson).”
But here’s what happened during his first few fall practices at Ole Miss:
Deuce spent his first three days at running back, running behind John Avery.
Then, Ole Miss coaches moved him to the other side of the ball, to linebacker.
“I was crushed, devastated,” McAllister said. “I wanted to play running back. I wanted the ball. That was my dream.”
McAllister went in to talk to Tuberville, who told him to give it a few days and see how it worked out.
“Coach Tub had a defensive background,” McAllister says. “He had been at Miami when they had linebackers like Ray Lewis. He told me he envisioned me with my size and speed as being the Ray Lewis of Ole Miss.”
But Deuce didn’t want to be Ray Lewis.
“I went so far as packing my bags,” McAllister says. “I called James Carson, Coach Big Daddy, at Jackson State. I told him I was going somewhere where they would let me run the football.”
As you might expect, Carson said, “Come on down.”
But then, a couple days before the first big scrimmage of the fall, Avery sprained an ankle. Ole Miss moved Deuce back over to offense.
Then came the scrimmage. McAllister ran wild.
“I guess I did pretty well,” McAllister said, smiling. “There was never any talk of moving me back to defense.”
No doubt, Deuce McAllister would have made one heckuva linebacker.
But he became a two-time All-SEC, two-time Pro Bowl running back.
Put it this way: John Avery’s pre-season ankle sprain was surely the most important sprained ankle in Ole Miss football history.
Jackson State fans can only wonder what might have been.
To support your Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, click here.