This article was originally appeared in The Daily Barometer on September 30, 2015. It has been republished with the author’s permission.
Junior receiver Rahmel Dockery found a home in Corvallis with the use of social media.
Justin Strong didn’t pause very long before answering.
“That boy Dock,” the sophomore safety said, referring to junior wide receiver Rahmel Dockery. The question he was answering?
Who the best Snapchatter was on the Oregon State football team.
Snapchat – a photo sharing app that many OSU athletes are active on – wouldn’t necessarily seem like an expected outlet for Dockery, who admits that he tends to be fairly quiet in public interactions.
In reality though, whether on Snapchat or in person with his teammates, Dockery has made a name for himself as a team comedian.
“I can be myself on Snapchat and, I guess, make fun of everybody,” Dockery said. “I’m just the most creative. I go outside the Snapchat boundaries.”
Dockery is a junior but has only been in Corvallis one year, originally starting at Washington State. Attending WSU was momentous for the Tacoma, Wash. native, since Dockery is the first member of his family to attend college. But a position switch to defensive back didn’t work out, leading Dockery to exit WSU and enroll at Tacoma Community College, which does not have a football program.
Suddenly, Dockery was on his own, forced to train and keep in shape without the help of teammates or a coaching staff.
“It was hard, especially trying to find motivation,” Dockery said. “I’m just glad I made it out. Finally, the work I put in paid off.”
For Dockery, who is fourth in the Pac-12 with 68 punt return yards this year, the connection to Oregon State was helped by junior center Isaac Seumalo, a cousin of Dockery’s.
“We weren’t that close [before],” Dockery said of their relationship before his arrival in Corvallis. “I’ve never really talked to him because he was in Oregon and I was in Washington. But as soon as I got here, we connected and it was cool. It felt like we’d been close for a long time.”
Dockery, who is half-Polynesian, noted that Seumalo and the rest of the Polynesian OSU players became his primary friend group upon arrival. Before, Dockery assumed it would be hard to fit in with his new teammates, but the transition was easier than expected.
“At first, I thought it would be like that — I thought it would be slow,” he said. “But it was a lot different. As soon as I came in, I felt like I was a part of the team. I knew I was at home as soon as I got here.”
Sophomore guard Fred Lauina, who hails from American Samoa, first met Dockery on campus last year before hearing that Dockery had just transferred to OSU.
Soon, Dockery was joining the rest of the Polynesian players at their homes for barbecues. He quickly felt at ease with his new teammates, while Lauina and the rest of the players were pleasantly surprised at Dockery’s athleticism.
“You don’t see many of us being wide receivers,” Lauina said. “People expect us to be more physical.”
“He’s only half-Poly, though,” he added with a laugh.
Another contrast to Dockery’s reserved public personality is his playing style, which was anything but quiet last year. His 26.3 yards per catch average led the Beavers, including a 49-yard grab against his former team and another against San Diego State.
“That’s always been my style,” he said of his deep-threat ability. “When I make a play, that’s me being loud. That’s how I am.”
This year, Dockery’s main contribution has been as a returner more than as a wide receiver. Dockery had a 21-yard punt return against Michigan and an 18-yard return versus San Jose State, further exemplifying his big-play tendencies.
His teammates were also surprised by the contrast between his mellow off-field demeanor and his electrifying playing style.
“He’s quiet, kind’ve like me,” said freshman defensive back Gabe Ovgard. “And I find out… he’s this great athlete from Washington and I’m amazed at how athletic he is. He high-jumped like seven feet as a sophomore in high school, and he’s 5-foot-10.”
Seumalo, like Dockery, also has a propensity for a more reticent public personality. Dockery and Seumalo might be the two quitest guys on the team, but Dockery insists that things are different when they’re in friendly company.
“I feel like it’s like that in public, but when we’re all together hanging out, you couldn’t tell,” Dockery said. “When it’s time to hang out, we’re loud.”
Dockery’s most common form of self-expression, he happily admits, is some good-natured ribbing at the expense of his teammates. His most common target: fellow wide receiver Jordan Villamin.
“He knows when he sees me on my phone that I’m about to record him,” Dockery said with a laugh.
But Dockery is serious about his biggest goal in his remaining time in Corvallis: graduating. He expects to do so this June with a degree in Sociology. After that, he will likely start graduate school while using his senior year of eligibility next season.
Until then, count on Dockery to do what he does best: build his social media reputation, make fun of teammates and make big plays.