For Ole Miss Quarterback Jevan Snead, the Road to Success Contained a Few Detours

"Growing up, you always dream of playing big-time ball, and I am finally here," said Mississippi quarterback Jevan Snead, right. The Rebels are ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press preseason poll. (By Sam Greenwood -- Getty Images)
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By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 30, 2009

When Jevan Snead decided to leave the University of Texas nearly three years ago, he considered other in-state schools, Texas Christian and Houston, before his high school coach asked, "What about Ole Miss?"

"Who?" Snead said.

Born and raised in Texas, Snead was unfamiliar with Mississippi until he researched the team, visited campus and fell hard for Southern ambience. After conferring with those closest to him, Snead decided to take his game to Oxford, Miss., a move he calls a "leap of faith."

That decision has had far-reaching consequences, helping to reset a promising career and re-energize the fan base of a dormant program in an idyllic college town. Mississippi begins this season at No. 8 in the Associated Press poll, its highest ranking since 1970. And along the campus roads, with speed limits set at 18 mph in honor of legendary quarterback Archie Manning, Snead can now spot "Snead 4 Heisman" bumper stickers.

"It's kind of crazy," Snead, a junior quarterback, said in a telephone interview. "Growing up, you always dream of playing big-time ball, and I am finally here."

For the longest time, there was no guarantee Snead would find the national spotlight, much less be mentioned with Florida's Tim Tebow and Texas's Colt McCoy as strong Heisman Trophy hopefuls. Tebow and McCoy, after all, helped put Snead on a most circuitous journey.

A former all-American at Stephenville High in Texas, Snead originally committed to play for Coach Urban Meyer at Florida, only to renege once Tebow pledged to play in Gainesville. Snead then chose Texas, only to watch McCoy blossom. Snead threw 49 passes as a freshman in 2006, while McCoy threw 318, started all 13 games and earned second-team all-Big 12 honors.

So Snead was on the move once more. Oxford reminded him of Stephenville, a tight-knit home to about 17,000. He loved Oxford's quaintness, the genuine hospitality and the Grove, the famed 10-acre, grassy campus plot shaded by oak trees. And he became enamored with then-Coach Ed Orgeron, who was lauded as a strong recruiter.

But all Snead had ever known was the Lone Star State. His mind was wrapped up in Big 12 football. And even now, he acknowledges, "I don't even know how I got here, honestly."

A rough first year awaited in Oxford. Mississippi went winless in the Southeastern Conference in 2007 as the best quarterback on campus was unable to play because of NCAA transfer rules. Snead said he wondered whether he had made the right decision.

And then the coaching staff Snead had committed to play for was dismissed, leaving the player with more anxiety. The hiring of Houston Nutt, who had led Arkansas to three SEC West division titles in 10 years, did little -- at least initially -- to quell concerns.

"I had worked so hard and done everything I could to impress the [former] staff," Snead said. "I didn't know who was going to come in and didn't want to lose all that. I was really worried when I found out because I didn't know whether we were just going to run the ball every down."

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