- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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OXFORD, Miss. -- A phone call and a catchy Internet video/jingle added fuel to Donte Moncrief’s late-season fire in 2012.
Moncrief, who would rather say more with his play than his words, became a YouTube sensation last year when the group King Kobraz’s “Rebelz” video, better known as “Feed Moncrief,” went viral just days before the Egg Bowl showdown with archrival Mississippi State.
(Oh, look, there's a second version!)
But the more reserved Moncrief had no idea his popularity was booming until his mother called him and told him to search “feed Moncrief” on YouTube.
Perplexed, Moncrief followed orders and was shocked that people took the time to make him the focus of the ever-popular student-run, dance video. But the attention he received actually increased his motivation heading into the Rebels’ crucial season finale.
"I knew I had to start making big plays so I told Coach [Hugh Freeze] to believe in me and give me shots at going deep,” Moncrief told ESPN.com last week. “He started trusting me, gave me big shots and I made big plays."
Those big shots came in the form of seven catches for a career-high 173 yards and three touchdowns against the Bulldogs, helping propel the Rebels to their first win over Mississippi State since 2008 and their first bowl berth since 2009.
"Coming into that week … we knew that [Mississippi State’s defensive backs] were supposed to be the top in the SEC and the best and they were talking a lot of noise during the week during interviews,” Moncrief said. “The coaches were telling us that every day and telling us to think about that and let it piss you off to the point to where you want to go super hard every day.
"We went super hard, and when it got to game time, we weren't the ones that were going to talk; we were just going to play and show them what we had.
"It was a good feeling that we actually beat them like that because they had a big head with those [eight] wins and we knew we could come in and beat them if we wanted to."
Moncrief finished the season catching 27 passes for 439 yards and five touchdowns in the Rebels’ final five games and he’s hoping to build off his late-season surge. The Internet is still buzzing about him, but he insists it hasn’t gone to his head. He’s taken the humble approach and merely uses the video and song as either a motivator or a good laugh.
So far, his teammates are pretty satisfied with his spring play, and quarterback Bo Wallace has been amazed by the focus the rising junior has shown.
"You see Donte playing with so much confidence right now and he almost makes it look easy out there,” Wallace said.
"I expect greatness out of Donte. He wants it so bad and you can see the focus that he has every day that he comes out here. He does want to be the best receiver in the SEC, he's not just telling you that."
Moncrief said his improvements stem from his increased study habits and his dedication to detail. He’s reading the defense better and making sure he’s aware of all the mismatches he sees on the field.
"It got to a point where it started to feel like high school, it got so easy," said Moncrief, who caught 66 passes for 979 yards and 10 touchdowns last year.
The “sky’s the limit” when it comes to Moncrief’s potential, Freeze said, but his star is still growing, which is scary. He has a great combination of size, speed, strength and toughness, which causes a lot of issues for defenders with the space he works within Freeze’s spread offense.
Moncrief might have missed out on being an All-SEC performer in 2012, but Freeze isn’t envious of the teams that have to face what should be an even better product in 2013.
"We're glad he's on our team, that's for sure," Freeze said.
19hEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf