January 8, 2009

Visit settles things for Lafayette County star

Not so long ago, Montez Phillips was indicating he was open to taking some more official visits despite his verbal commitment to Ole Miss.

Earlier this week, however, the Oxford (Lafayette County), Miss., athlete entertained Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt. The conversation changed those plans.

"It went good," Phillips said. "He said they want to get me in the weight room as quick as possible. He said he wants me to enroll in first summer session. He said if I work hard, I can come in and compete for playing time right away. Mike Wallace's spot is open, and I'm excited about that.

"I've been talking to them since last February. We've grown close. We talked about a lot of different things. I don't like to talk about sports 24-7. (Nutt) must've known because we talked about a lot of things. I was excited about that."

Phillips, who attended several Ole Miss games in 2008, said he sees himself fitting in at Wallace's spot and/or eventually replacing Dexter McCluster as a slot receiver who can line up as a quarterback in the "Wild Rebel" formation. Both Wallace and McCluster scored touchdowns in Ole Miss' 47-34 win over Texas Tech in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic on Jan. 2 in Dallas, though Phillips missed parts of it.

"I got excited but then I went to sleep," Phillips said, laughing. "When I woke up, they were celebrating."

As for taking other visits _ Mississippi State and Southern Mississippi have been pushing for Phillips to visit their campuses this month _ Phillips said those trips probably won't take place. And if they do, they almost certainly won't matter.

"I'm probably signing with Ole Miss," Phillips said. "I'm pretty much like every other kid. I just wanted to go and visit. I was just going to have fun."

Phillips will visit Ole Miss officially on Jan. 23. Until then, his focus is going to shift to baseball. The high school quarterback is one of the top prep baseball players in the Magnolia State. The diamond will also provide an escape from the two-sided local pressure Phillips is receiving, some from Mississippi State fans upset that the one-time Bulldog commitment is now seemingly headed to Ole Miss and some from Rebel fans trying to give the school's sales pitch yet again.

"I still have some people who like State who I hear from," Phillips said. "I'm used to it now. I just laugh and walk off."

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