STARKVILLE — Luke Altmyer never really thought he’d be here, seated in a black folding chair behind a table where his future lay on a slim piece of white paper before him.
During his middle school and high school days, the Starkville quarterback had seen the moment happen for other Yellow Jackets — A.J. Brown, Willie Gay Jr., Kobe Jones — seeking college football stardom in the Southeastern Conference.
“You see them come through, and you just dream of being in their shoes one day,” Altmyer said.
For Altmyer, that day was Wednesday — National Signing Day for this year’s early signing period — as he officially made his collegiate choice.
“It’s time to get down to business,” the quarterback told an excited crowd in the Starkville gym Wednesday afternoon. “For the next three to four years of my life, I’ll be taking my talents to the University of Mississippi.”
Altmyer, who had been committed to Florida State since February, announced Nov. 30 he no longer would play for the Seminoles. On Dec. 4, the four-star quarterback announced his commitment to Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss and solidified that pledge Wednesday.
“It’s very special to see a first-year coach like him have so much success in a crazy freaking year with COVID and so many rule changes, stuff like that,” Altmyer said of Kiffin after the signing ceremony. “To see him have a lot of excitement buzzing around Oxford and the SEC and the nation is something that I want to be a part of.”
The quarterback holds Starkville High records for career completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns. In 2019, his 251 completions were tops in a single season in school history, and his 3,093 passing yards and 37 touchdown tosses were second only to Brady Davis in 2014 (3,412 yards, 42 touchdowns).
“We appreciate all that you’ve done for the program in your time here,” Starkville Athletic Director Greg Owen told Altmyer shortly before he signed his national letter of intent to play for the Rebels. ” … It was a joy to get to see you compete each Friday night.”
Now, Altmyer will trade those Fridays for Saturdays — and maybe eventually for Sundays, as Yellow Jackets coach Chris Jones alluded to.
“Sooner or later, it’s going to end — hopefully about 10, 12, 15 years from now, it’s going to end,” Jones said of Altmyer’s football career, referencing a potential lengthy career in the NFL. “Whenever it ends for you, I feel like you’ll be fine regardless, whatever you decide to do because you’re a good dude, a good person. You’ve always worked hard.”
But there were times at which Altmyer wasn’t sure that hard work would be enough. Along with the highs of his time at Starkville — reaching the state semifinals in his freshman and junior seasons — there were lows, such as a 2020 season delayed and shortened by COVID-19 in which the Jackets failed to qualify for the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs.
“There were a lot of days where I was on top of the mountain, but there were a few days where I was in the pit,” Altmyer said.
But those down days “shaped” and “formed” the young quarterback into one of Mississippi’s top recruits. Altmyer is currently ranked 13th in the nation among pro-style passers and the fourth-best recruit in Mississippi according to the 247 Sports composite rankings.
On Feb. 3, Altmyer committed to head coach Mike Norvell at Florida State. But just over a month later, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the quarterback reconsidered his choice.
“It was just hard for me to see myself in Tallahassee, so far away, and I felt like Ole Miss was the spot for me,” he said.
Conversations with Kiffin — a “great offensive mind,” Altmyer said — helped the Jackets star pick a new destination. Altmyer committed to Ole Miss on Dec. 4 after decommitting from Florida State on Nov. 30, though he made clear Wednesday he harbors no ill will toward Norvell and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kenny Dillingham.
“I’m so appreciative of them — what they’ve done for me, how they believed in me,” Altmyer said.
Ultimately, though, he felt his heart truly belonged in Oxford. The signal caller will enroll early at Ole Miss in order to get a head start on a dream that once never seemed possible.
“It’s really crazy to see how far I’ve come,” Altmyer said. “I’ve battled through a lot of adversity. I’ve fought through a lot. But I wouldn’t change anything for the world.”
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.