There's more to Ole Miss receiver D.K. Metcalf than those insane catches
You can come up with a lot of ways to describe D.K. Metcalf. By now, he’s heard them all.
“Freak.” “Mega.” “Transformer.” Just copy and paste any of the nicknames that belonged to former NFL great Calvin Johnson when discussing the 6-4, 225-pound Ole Miss receiver. They’re all applicable.
As for the “freak” association, that speaks for itself. Metcalf power cleans 350 pounds, he benches 330 pounds, he has a 37 1/2-inch vertical, he broad jumps 11-1 and he runs a 4.46-second 40-yard dash. Those marks earned him the No. 21 spot on Bruce Feldman’s annual preseason “Freaks List.”
On the field, the “Mega” and “Transformer” nicknames are even more apparent. Each week, it seems like Metcalf produces some highlight-reel catch. His latest might’ve been his best yet.
With Ole Miss in a back-and-forth battle with Vanderbilt last Saturday, Rebels quarterback Shea Patterson saw that Metcalf had one-on-one coverage on the outside against Commodores cornerback Tre Herndon. Patterson floated a ball to Metcalf, who used every bit of his freakish abilities to go up and make a play.
It didn’t matter that Herndon’s helmet was in the way.
Somehow, someway, Metcalf caught the ball on the back of Herndon’s head and secured it as they tumbled to the ground. Forget SportsCenter top play. Metcalf’s improbable grab had the broadcast crew talking ESPY.
— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) October 14, 2017
That was a new level of “Mega” for Metcalf, who admittedly never made a grab like that before. It left quite the impression on Ole Miss coach Matt Luke.
“As far as catches that I’ve seen, we’ve had some pretty good ones,” Luke said, “but catching it on a guy’s back, that’s a pretty neat thing.”
It’s easy to take plays like that for granted with Metcalf. After all, he is the son of former Ole Miss All-American and third-round NFL draft pick Terrence Metcalf. Blessed, the younger Metcalf is. NFL bloodlines are there, but he doesn’t show any signs of entitlement.
Take a closer look and you’ll see why Metcalf isn’t your run-of-the-mill “freak” receiver.
When Metcalf isn’t going viral for making highlight-reel catches, there’s another passion that occupies his time. Like any college kid, he likes food.
Let’s rephrase that.
Metcalf’s goal is to have a future in the food business. He wants to attend culinary school, then own and operate his own restaurant.
And yes, he already has a catchy name and slogan picked out.
“Cheesy Goodness,” Metcalf said, “where cheese is king and put it on everything.”
Not surprisingly, his specialty as Alfredo. As a hospitality management major, Metcalf gets time to perfect his craft with his various cooking and food science classes.
When he got to Ole Miss in 2016, he told his teachers about his desired career path and they hooked him up with a bunch of Oxford restaurant owners, who were more than willing to share some tricks of the trade with the aspiring chef/entrepreneur. Metcalf wants to have the business side down by the time he’s ready to make his dream a reality.
His all-business approach seems to follow him in everything he does. Metcalf doesn’t watch his highlights on YouTube. That, he says, is for other people to talk about. He doesn’t even like to relive his first career touchdown catch, which came in impressive fashion in his college debut against Florida State in 2016.
That was one of two touchdowns Metcalf had in his first two games as a true freshman. The second score came a week later against Wofford. But it was what happened later that game that made headlines.
In the second quarter of his second game, Metcalf broke his foot. His breakout freshman season was over. It was unfamiliar territory for a guy who had never suffered a serious injury before.
“The first thing is to think bad thoughts,” Metcalf said. “But my parents talked to me. They told me to look at the glass half-full. It was God giving me more time to work on my film study, or to get stronger in some other areas of my game.”
Metcalf had never gone through rehabilitation before. Spending time away from the field was one thing. Building his body back up for the first time was another kind of challenge. Metcalf would go to class in the morning, and then spend five hours per day on rehab. He’d lift weights while the team was outside practicing.
Ole Miss receiver D.K. Metcalf
That wasn’t an easy pill to swallow.
“There were days when I went in there and I didn’t want to do anything. I just wanted to sit down and do my homework or just chill on my phone,” Metcalf said. “But (the training staff) had to get me ready to get back out there. I had exercises to do and I was on a planned schedule.
“I had to just pick it up, go out there and grind.”
In addition to building his strength back up, Metcalf had to learn how to jump and make his cuts. Staying low in his cuts was key.
Metcalf didn’t feel completely healthy doing those things until the first night of fall training camp. Nearly 11 months after he was dealt his first major setback as a football player, Metcalf said he felt better than ever. He added that those weight room numbers have improved since then, too.
When Metcalf took the field for the 2017 opener, he essentially got to hit the re-set button. He was granted a medical redshirt for his injury-plagued 2016 season. Unfortunately for the SEC defensive backs, Metcalf still has four years of eligibility left.
“I think people forget how young he is. He’s a freshman,” Luke said. “When you couple his work ethic with his ability, I think that makes him special. And the fact that he grew up with his dad being an Ole Miss All-American and how much he cares. I think those things coupled together make him really special.”
Metcalf’s relationship with his dad has been well-documented. It was the elder Metcalf who taught his son how to become one of the nation’s top high school recruits. That started back when D.K. was doing sit-ups and pushups with his NFL dad as a 5-year-old. Before D.K. started first grade, he could bench press 100 pounds.
One probably could’ve predicted that Metcalf would wind up on a “Freaks List” as a college freshman.
The work ethic that Metcalf developed with his dad is why he believes he’s doing what he is today.
He’s in the perfect system to maximize his abilities. Ole Miss’s up-tempo spread offense is predicated on getting the ball to the receivers in space and letting them make plays. Metcalf is an integral piece of the group that calls themselves “NWO,” short for “Nasty Wide Outs.”
Ole Miss coach Matt Luke
“I mean, we’re all 6-2 and above, 200-plus,” Metcalf said. “We have a nasty mindset that we’re gonna go out and dominate every play.”
He’s in constant competition with DaMarkus Lodge, Van Jefferson and SEC-leading receiver A.J. Brown to capture the highly-coveted wrestling-style belt that reads “NWO.” Metcalf earned it during games four times — for each of his touchdown catches.
Twice he won the Thursday test, which consists of questions about the coaching staff or the upcoming opponent. They even played paper football once. The winner gets to wear the NWO belt through the pre-game “Walk of Champions” through The Grove.
Though Ole Miss is ineligible for postseason play in 2017 because of a self-imposed bowl ban, Metcalf and the Rebels still have goals to accomplish this season. “NWO” wants to help Patterson break Tim Couch’s single-season SEC passing yards record, which he’s on pace to do. Setting a school record for passing touchdowns would be special, too.
With Metcalf, Brown, Jefferson and Patterson all in Oxford for at least another year and a half (Lodge is draft eligible in 2018), viral catches and passing records could come in bunches.
“I think the more they continue to rapport together, I think the better they’re gonna get,” Luke said. “I think the future is definitely bright, not only for D.K., but for the offense as a whole.”
Whether he makes another Vanderbilt-like catch or not, Metcalf’s future appears bright.
That’s not just because he was born into an NFL family, either. Metcalf prides himself on not being out-worked. That, more than anything, was why he earned the right to be called “Mega” or “Transformer.”
Even if Metcalf goes down with a career-ending injury tomorrow and never makes another viral catch, he’ll still have the right foundation to succeed.
“Cheesy Goodness” will just get a bit of a head start.