Townsend’s walk becomes starting Ole Miss fullback
OXFORD — Lorenzo Townsend not only talks the talk but he walksthe walk. His work ethic is second to none. The former walk-on hasworked himself into a starting job at fullback with the Ole MissRebels.
Townsend, from Lawrence County, may miss Saturday’s home openeragainst Memphis because of a pulled hamstring but the Monticelloproduct will continue bellowing encouragement to his teammates ifhe has to watch from the sidelines.
A 6-foot-2, 235-pound senior, Townsend has worked his way to No.1 fullback. He took over last year when Rick Razzano sustained aknee injury.
In last year’s 10-3, Cotton Bowl campaign, Townsend caught 14passes for 140 yards, including 2 touchdown receptions. He rushedthe football 10 times for 26 yards.
In the big win at Auburn, Townsend made a 48-yard reception fromEli Manning to set up the winning score.
In preparation for the season, most of the Rebels take summercourses and remain on campus. Townsend has labored through a long,sweat-soaked summer of weightlifting and conditioning. Collegefootball demands a 12-month routine which requires strongdedication.
“I spent the whole summer up here working,” said Townsend. “Itook some Spanish classes.” His major is sociology, with a minor incriminal justice.
Ole Miss running backs coach Arlington Nunn said Townsend is ahard-working leader in the backfield. Nunn, in his first season atOle Miss, was on hand to coach the backs through spring drills.
Nunn moved to Ole Miss from Troy State (Ala.) University wherehe served as wide receivers coach for three years. He’s a native ofClearwater, Fla.
“Lorenzo is doing a great job,” said Nunn. “He just tweaked hishamstring again.
“He’s a hard worker and team leader. He’s a big physicalfullback, one of the best athletes in the group.”
Townsend fills the role of the typical SEC fullback. Wearingjersey No. 33, he provides blocking protection for the quarterbackand running backs.
“A big part of his job is blocking,” said Nunn. “You have to bean unselfish blocker. The tailbacks get the glory while thefullbacks do the blocking.”
Nunn said Townsend occasionally has a chance at glory. “We liketo pass (fullbacks) the ball coming out of the backfield; matchthem up against the linebacker. Lorenzo has great hands.”
The Rebels begin a new era at quarterback Saturday againstMemphis. Michael Spurlock replaces 4-year starter Eli Manning.
“Spurlock is doing a outstanding job,” said Nunn. “He will be atreat for everybody to watch.”
On the field Townsend said he wants to improve. “I want to be acomplete player this year. I want to catch the ball and blockbetter. I want to be accountable.
“It’s important to be a leader,” added Townsend. “Being asenior, the younger guys look up to me. I have to show them theright direction.”
A brash, outspoken athlete, Townsend endured some difficulttimes after a brilliant career at Lawrence County. He saw limitedaction at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. He also playedbasketball at Co-Lin and did a commendable job at guard.
Linebacker Ken Bournes, Townsend’s former high school and Co-Linteammate, was recruited and signed by Ole Miss. Townsend decided tofollow him to Oxford.
“In high school, being a superstar and then going to juniorcollege and not getting to play much was tough,” said Townsend.”Then I was a walk-on at Ole Miss. I wanted to get aneducation.”
Bournes, expected to start for Ole Miss this season, wassuspended by head coach David Cutcliffe after an off-the-fieldaltercation in Memphis this summer. Bournes elected to transferrather than sit out six games.
“It (transfer) really shocked me,” said Townsend. “Coach alwaystalks to us about decision making.”
At Lawrence County, where Townsend helped the Cougars win the1999 Class 4A state championship, his backfield coach was MikeDavis, now the first-year head coach at LCHS.
“Coach Davis is my man,” said Townsend. “He worked with me a lotin high school. I still go see him when I’m home.”
Townsend’s mother is Mary Lee Townsend.
“I hope to play on the next level,” Townsend admitted. “If thatdoesn’t happen, I want to get a good paying job, too.”
He shares an off-campus apartment with three other teammates;defensive backs Eric Oliver, Kelvin Robinson and Keith Houston.
Townsend said he would consider a career in counseling.
“I want to help the youth. I don’t want them to go through thestuff I went through. I want them to keep their heads straight. Weare trying to stay on the straight and narrow.”