As Larry Kehres saw it, Cecil Shorts pretty much had it all.
Kehres, who coached the Jaguars' newest wide receiver the past four years at Mount Union (Pa.) College, said when it came to the position's most important attribute, Shorts arrived pretty much ready-made four seasons ago.
But while Shorts could catch, and while he arrived able to do so, Kehres said it was Shorts' abilities and development in all five critical receiver areas for the position that set him apart.
According to Kehres:
1.Shorts can catch.
2.He is quick and crisp out of cuts.
3.He can interpret routes.
4.He has speed.
5.He can block.
"In terms of the five key skills we ask receivers to develop, he made improvements in those," Kehres said this week of Shorts, a wide receiver whom the Jaguars made a fourth-round selection in the recent 2011 NFL Draft, the 114thplayer selected overall.
Shorts (6-feet-1, 205 pounds), out of Cleveland (Ohio) Collinwood High School, entered college as a quarterback. He switched to receiver full-time as a sophomore, earning All-America honors his final three collegiate seasons, catching 259 passes for 4,705 yards and 63 touchdowns. His receiving yardage was the third-highest in Division III history, but when Kehres discussed Shorts, he talked not of numbers, but an approach to improving each week and each season.
"There will be a great deal that the Jaguars' coaching staff can teach him, so I don't want to imply that there's not a lot to learn," Kehres said. "There is a whole world of NFL football for him to learn, but there was a set of skills that we were trying to teach him and in so far as what his coaches here were trying to do, he was at practice each season and each day of each season trying to improve those skills."
Kehres said what was particularly impressive about Shorts wasn't what he did as a sophomore, when he moved into a receiving role full-time for the first time and caught 77 passes for 1,484 yards and 23 touchdowns, but what he did the following two seasons.
"He became the leading receiver as he advanced through the program," Kehres said. "Then, he had to ace coverage that was rolled to him. He had to continue to develop as a receiver. He had to learn how to play each position in our pass offense so we could make it more difficult for the opponent to cover him.
"Once you become the key receiver, the defenders hone in on you. He learned to deal with that."
Shorts as a junior caught 100 passes for 1,736 yards and 19 touchdown and followed that with a 70-reception senior season in which he had 1,196 yards receiving and 18 touchdown receptions.
Shorts remained a backup quarterback throughout his collegiate career, Kehres said, and he also moved into the team's kick and punt returner role as a senior, returning nine kickoffs for 255 yards and an 80-yard touchdown. He also had 22 punt returns for 354 yards and two touchdowns.
"A lot was expected of him," Kehres said. "He always reached up and met the expectations. He really did come through for us with flying colors."
Of returning kicks, Kehres said, "He was anxious to do that. He felt that it would help him and he knew it would help our team. He knew he was the best punt and kick returner we had. It was a big plus for him and us."
While Shorts had NFL ability, he said shortly after the draft he doubted he would have been in a position to be selected in the fourth round if not for a former college teammate, Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Pierre Garcon, a sixth-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft.
Shorts without question benefited from seeing Garcon, Kehres said, and he said that was particularly true as a blocker.
"Having Pierre ahead of him, Cecil got to see that the effort that Pierre made as a blocker was outstanding – always, throughout each game he played here," Kehres said. "Cecil followed Pierre's footsteps in that regard.
"Pierre being drafted by the Colts helped Cecil to continue to work. I read a comment from Cecil where someone asked him had he talked to Pierre, and what did he tell you? Cecil said, 'Work hard.' I think he understood that if he wanted an opportunity beyond Mount Union he really needed to keep working. He needed to keep honing his skills and become physically stronger.
"You just can't take anything for granted. He was moving into more of a leadership role on our team and his coaches here expected him to lead by example with his work ethic."
Kehres said despite his status as an All-America, and as one of the best Division III players in the nation, Shorts never behaved like a big-time player – at least not in a detrimental way.
"He didn't rest on his laurels," Kehres said. "He always was striving to make it a little bit further and to improve. I hear coaches talk about players having a sense of entitlement. That's just not true here. The young men – they and their family are struggling to pay the bill. They're working some jobs. That didn't exist for him.
"Now, did he become a player who felt that he could have been at a higher level? I think so, and he said that himself, that he was kind of overlooked, but he grew into this 200-pound man that he is now. But a sense of entitlement was never part of what he brought to our team.
"When you're really good, you don't have to talk about it."