Fleming star of Arkansas State trick play
NATCHEZ — The play never worked in practice, but the one time it did work, it made R.J. Fleming an Internet celebrity of sorts.
Fleming, a Trinity Episcopal Day School alumnus and Arkansas State wide receiver, was playing in his final college game Sunday in the GoDaddy Bowl against Ball State.
Late in the second quarter, with first-and-10 on his own 49-yard-line, Fleming, who lists himself as “5-foot-8, 170 pounds on my best day,” crouched down behind his center and right guard. Quarterback Adam Kennedy took the snap, immediately handed it to a still-crouching Fleming, then faked a handoff to Fredi Knighten, who ran a speed sweep motion to the right. Wide receiver J.D. McKissic followed Knighten to act as a decoy, while Fleming waited a couple of seconds.
Then, with most of the Ball State defense following Knighten, Fleming stood up and ran to the left, gaining 27 yards. The trick play was later posted on ESPN’s YouTube account, and it had more than 1.5 million views as of Wednesday.
“It was successful, and I was surprised, because it never worked in practice,” Fleming said. “We had a whole month of December to prepare (for the bowl game), and we ran it at least two weeks straight in practice, and my defensive players were calling it every time.”
Ball State defensive end Nick Miles appeared to have the play read, but he was unable to catch up with Fleming when Fleming took off.
“I got around the corner, and I saw he wasn’t going to catch me,” Fleming said.
When Fleming arrived home in Natchez Tuesday, he said his brother, Trey Fleming, wanted to watch the play as soon as he saw his older brother.
“A lot of people have contacted me about it, and it’s been cool,” Fleming said of his Internet fame.
When the play actually worked, Fleming said the experience was surreal for him.
“Most people don’t get the chance to experience that,” he said. “When I stood up, my teammates were standing around me and the crowd was going crazy. I was just enjoying the moment, really.”
As a smaller player, some would see Fleming’s lack of height as a detriment. Even though it worked to his advantage on that particular play, Fleming said he doesn’t feel vindicated because of it.
“My height and weight is never a factor to me,” Fleming said. “I always joke with my teammates about this, but I mean it: In my heart, I’m 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. They can’t hurt you if they can’t get to you, and I’m always on the move.”
Arkansas State would go on to win the game, 23-20. In addition to the trick play, Fleming also had two receptions for 13 yards. The play can be viewed at tinyurl.com/kx4t82l.