GOODMAN, Miss. -- When Jonathon Rumph signed a scholarship with Holmes Community College out of high school, it was his only option.
At 6-foot-5, he looked the part of a top prospect. But prior to his junior season, he moved from wide receiver to quarterback, and his stock began to drop. Couple that with issues in the classroom, and there were no BCS school who showed any interest. Even the Division II schools told him the only way they would take him was if he redshirted his first year.
“He was a quarterback that looked like Vince Young, but all he did was hand the ball off,” Holmes CC head coach Jeff Koonz said. “They really didn’t use his athleticism in high school.”
But Koonz saw that athleticism and saw the potential Rumph had at wide receiver, and he offered the South Carolina native a chance to come in and play right away. Rumph knew it was not only his best but it was his only opportunity, so he took his talents to Mississippi.
With the move, he had to grow up real fast.
“At a junior college, you have to be self made,” Rumph said. “You got to have the intensity right away. It’s a short period of time, so you can’t come in raw because they don’t have enough time to work with you. You have to come in with a motivational grind, your own grind.
“I came in, and I didn’t want to be the smallest person out there, so I worked on everything, my routes, my hands, my blocking, everything.”
Although he was a starter from day one, it took time for Rumph to adjust to the junior college level. It wasn’t until about midway through his freshman season when he first began to figure it out, and he started turning heads.
“Just watching him learning how to play the game was fun,” Koonz said. “He really didn’t know that there were other aspects of playing receiver -- the blocking part, running the correct routes, what to do after after you caught the ball, but he was a quick learner.”
Rumph also bulked up in the weight room. He was at 193 pounds when he first enrolled at Holmes, and now he’s closer to 220 pounds.
With his development both on the field and in the weight room, Rumph started to get noticed by major BCS programs this past spring. Mississippi State offered first. Then it was LSU, Arkansas and Ole Miss, and from there, it just took off.
It was all new for Rumph, but he didn’t let it change his attitude. He stayed the course.
“When you get all of the offers, you just have to stay humble and keep your grind mentality,” Rumph said. “Don’t let it make you feel like you’re big time yet. You haven’t made it yet, so you just have to keep grinding and stay focused. Don’t ever lose focus.”
Rumph just finished his sophomore season. He led the team with 569 yards receiving and three touchdowns. He’s set to graduate next month. It’s time to move on to the next level, but first, he has to decide where he’s going to go, which BCS school he wants to attend.
The junior college star has narrowed his list to five -- Georgia, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Texas Tech. He plans to return home to South Carolina next week and make a decision with his mother the day before Thanksgiving.
“I want a place where I feel loved and where I feel like I can be successful,” Rumph said. “A place where they will push me to my max, where I can be great and where they can get me to the next level.”