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A Legendary Knight For John Rhys Plumlee

JRP cementing his UCF legacy as UCF’s greatest two-sport athlete

UCF Quarterback/Centerfielder John Rhys Plumlee at the post-Spring Game press conference.
Noah Goldberg

Friday night will go down as a Legendary night for the UCF Knights’ John Rhys Plumlee, as he participated in both a UCF Baseball win over Memphis and UCF Football’s spring game right after.

If you attended the baseball game, or were at the football game, you witnessed something that has never happened at UCF, and may never happen again.

Plumlee was in the starting lineup for Baseball as usual, playing center field and hitting ninth, with many local and national media following his day.

He set the tone in the bottom of the 3rd with a 2-RBI triple, giving the Knights an early 2-0 lead:

Plumlee would score moments later on a Ben McCabe RBI single.

With the Knights up 10-3, Plumlee would exit the baseball game in the bottom of the 7th after his 2nd hit of the game — a single — in favor of a pinch runner.

I will never forget watching Plumlee leaving John Euliano Park and all the fans watching rooting him on as he got on the golf cart:

Just seven minutes later, Plumlee entered FBC Mortgage Stadium and would complete 10/17 passes for 236 yards and two TDs, including this deep ball to Kobe Hudson:

Plumlee's busy night drew national attention, including two people who can directly relate to playing both Baseball and Football: Kyler Murray and Deion Sanders.

I will remember the Spring of 2023 as the Spring of JRP. Many, myself included, wondered how Plumlee would balance playing baseball with spring football practices and the responsibilities that come with being a starting quarterback. Heck, many wondered how good of a baseball player he would be.

He has answered the baseball question with great play, as he has been the Knights' most consistent and best outfielder this season.

But what would happen when football practice began? Knight fans debated which he should skip — football practice or baseball games — if they conflicted.

JRP responded by doing both. He only missed one football practice and no baseball games this spring, including flying in after a morning practice to join the baseball team and play a doubleheader at East Carolina.

JRP arriving to the Bounce House from the baseball game on Friday night.
Brenna Johnson

JRP has gone above and beyond this spring because he wants to be there for his teammates, and not be perceived as being given anything or as taking any shortcuts.

Prior to Plumlee, notable multi-sport UCF athletes include UCF Athletic Hall of Famers Calvin Lingelbach (1973-1978), Amy Allman (1984-1987), and Dee Brown (2002-2005) who, like JRP, played baseball and football and are the only Knights to score a TD and hit a home run.

Lingelbach was a point guard on the basketball team and a utility infielder on the baseball team from 1973-78. He was considered one of the best all-around athletes to ever play at UCF at that time and was inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001.

Allman was an All-American goalkeeper (1984-1987) for Women's Soccer while also participating in Cross Country and Rowing.

But Brown is a top-five all-time UCF Baseball great who also played fullback on the Knights football team. But that does not carry the burden of a quarterback. Brown could focus on baseball mainly while sprinkling in football practice every once in a while, whereas Plumlee has played in every single baseball game and only missed one football practice this spring. What he has been pulling off has been remarkable.

One person who is currently on campus who likely can relate to what Plumlee is going through is new UCF Offense Coordinator Darin Hinshaw (1991-1994) who was a starting quarterback at UCF while also being on the UCF Basketball team when it made its first NCAA Tournament in 1993-1994. But Hinshaw did not have a significant role in hoops (5 games, 9 total minutes, one field goal) like JRP has in baseball as an everyday starting centerfielder.

Plumlee is looking to lead the Knights in the most anticipated season in school history this fall as the starting quarterback in UCF’s first year in the Big 12. In the meantime, he is also playing at a high level in baseball, leading the team in steals and ranking third on the team in hitting. This is after Plumlee led football in rushing in the fall and got them within one win of a New Year’s Six Bowl game.

It’s too bad some of the local media and fans have not appreciated what Plumlee has been doing until Friday.

UCF Football Head Coach Gus Malzahn and Baseball Head Coach Greg Lovelady also both deserve a ton of credit for working together to make JRP’s dream of playing both sports possible at UCF. Many coaches in this situation would put their team — and ego — ahead to get as much of the player’s time, but Malzahn and Lovelady helped each other to make sure both teams and JRP would benefit equally. As a result, we are witnessing the best multi-sport UCF athlete ever.

Many coaches across the country should take notes.

It remains to be seen how the JRP story will end in football and baseball in 2023, but Friday night cemented Plumlee as a legendary Knight.