With each stupefying snag (here's his latest), with each record-setting day, Chicago Bears WR Alshon Jeffery is becoming more of a household name. Of course, he's long been a household name in the state of South Carolina—the rest of the nation's just catching up.
But it's difficult for many above-average college players to find their way on the radars of the NFL faithful who are content to wait for the talent to come to them. That's fair, but it also results in NFL fans perceiving breakout players as overachievers. "Where was this Alshon Jeffery back in the 2012 draft?" fans of any of the 31 teams that passed on Jeffery might ask.
As Gamecock (and most college football) fans know, Jeffery's no stranger to making nutso catches. In fact, ESPN's SEC Blog rated Jeffery as the #1 overall player in the SEC prior to the 2011 season. Of course, Jeffery fell victim to double coverages and an overall down year for Gamecock quarterback play. Between a statistical regression and the "fat Alshon" meme, Alshon entered the NFL draft lacking the sort of momentum most thought he'd have. He fell to the 2nd round as the 45th overall pick, the 7th receiver taken.
Based on that sentence alone, it's understandable for the uninitiated to feel a tad surprised by Alshon's rise to prominence. But not us. We watched him ball out for three years (fair warning: MUTE IT):
Now, you can argue that it's easy to cherrypick highlights for any college player, but it's worth noting how many of those plays display an impressive use of hands, jump timing, and sneaky breakaway speed. A few that warrant standalone clips:
Hail Mary to end the first half against Nebraska in the 2011 Capital One Bowl. Not only the catch, but the wherewithal to turn and dive across the goal line.
Jeffery's entire game against Alabama in 2010. Jeffery had two touchdowns that day, but the catch at 2:01 might have been better than either.
Finally, mostly for sentimental purposes, we remember Jeffery's final catch at Williams-Brice, after which he subtly booped the DB's helmet with his crotch.
So enjoy Alshon, NFL. We hate to say we told you so, but...