Penn State for years was known as Linebacker University. Miami (Fla.) has consistently produced elite defensive talent the past two decades. So maybe it's not out of the question that annual Division III power Mount Union is becoming a factory for talented receivers.
Following in the footsteps of Pierre Garcon, who came from the school to put up respectable numbers his first three seasons with the Colts, Cecil Shorts might be the next in line to make it in the NFL. Shorts broke several of Garcon's receiving records in college and stands to be drafted in April. PFW's Nolan Nawrocki, in the 2011 Draft Preview book, says Shorts is a "smooth, football-smart, highly productive small-schooler" who could end up being taken in the middle rounds.
PFW recently caught up with Shorts and asked him about following Garcon to the NFL, playing quarterback in high school, driving illegally and what he might do if he's not drafted.
PFW: How has this whole pre-draft process been for you?
CS: I would say it has gone pretty well. I had a good week of practice at the East-West Shrine game — not my best week, but pretty good. The Combine was a positive experience. It has been going well so far. Nothing really has caught me off guard so far. I asked Pierre for a little bit of advice, and he said, 'Just take it day by day and just control what you can.' Nothing has caught me by surprise. I am just glad for the opportunity.
PFW: What did you do at your pro day? How do you feel it went?
CS: It went well, really well. All I did was the 40 (yard dash). I improved my routes, so I was excited about that. I didn't run any routes because (the weather) was pretty bad outside: wet and rainy. We didn't want to go through that. (Shorts ran times of 4.35 and 4.41 seconds, which were improvements from his 4.56 time at the Combine.)
PFW: What do you think NFL scouts have the biggest worries about you?
CS: Definitely my level of competition. That's probably the biggest question.
PFW: Do you feel you would have as good a shot to make it in the league if Pierre hadn't already made a name for himself?
CS: I think he definitely paved the way. His success definitely opened some eyes up, and me, coming from the same school, he definitely opened some eyes up for me. It's probably a little more open now for me than (it was) for him. I definitely think I have a shot for what I did, but Pierre definitely paved the way.
PFW: Do you think the NFL is now becoming more open to look at D-III for talent?
CS: I think it's a trend in the league. If (D-III) guys continue to be successful in the NFL, scouts will continue to look at that level.
PFW: You played with Garcon for two years. How close are you guys?
CS: We're pretty good friends. We keep in touch. I don't like to bother him all the time, but if I have questions or if I need to hit him up for help, I hit him up. We talk. He asks me how everything is going with my family.
PFW: Because you broke most of his records at Mount Union, do you feel the need to surpass him in the NFL, too?
CS: You know (laughs), I guess you could say that, but ... my goal is to make it in the league and help my team win a Super Bowl. That's the main goal. We're competitive guys, yeah, but it's not personal with him or anything.
PFW: You've run fast, put up big numbers in college and appear to have the physical characteristics of an NFL wide receiver. But what are some other strengths people should know about you?
CS: I think to even get looked at from the Division III level shows my hard work. I think I have put in a lot of hard work into getting to this point. I think just the stats speak for themselves. I know I worked at my craft. I stayed up here over the summertime every year and just worked on my craft. Actually, I think it helped out that I played quarterback. A lot of guys don't get to play quarterback, so I know what every guy is doing on the field. I can figure out coverages and what is going on with the head coach and the offensive coordinator on the sideline.
PFW: How badly did you want to be a quarterback coming out of high school?
CS: I turned down some Division II schools because I wanted to play quarterback. I wanted to play it badly. Some teams only wanted me to play running back or defensive back or even receiver. But I didn't want to do that. I was stuck on playing quarterback. I ended up switching a couple years later.
PFW: Break down your game at QB. Give me the scouting report.
CS: Everybody thinks I am just a runner! (Laughs.) But I'm not. I passed the ball all the time. In high school, I was a passer. Then when I got here, they found out I could run. We put a little option in, here and there.
PFW: And how did the switch to receiver come about?
CS: Originally, when they moved me, I was the backup quarterback. I was No. 2 at the time and I still didn't want to play receiver. (Laughs.) Pierre's last year there was my redshirt freshman year, and I was playing slot receiver and quarterback. I still wasn't liking that position until that next year.
PFW: What won you over? When did you start liking receiver?
CS: Reading coverages, knowing where the quarterback wants you to be, it's a challenge. Going into my sophomore year, our quarterback (Greg Micheli) was All-American this, All-American that. I had to get my mind right because they had told me I was going to be the guy that year. So I just had to put in the work and the effort, and it definitely paid off the next three years.
PFW: You were recruited by schools such as Slippery Rock and Lock Haven to play quarterback. Do you think your height cost you some Division I attention coming out of high school?
CS: I think so. My height and my weight — I was about 150, 155 (pounds) coming out of high school. I think I am not a late developer, but I developed later than other people. But I think that's what happened.
PFW: You returned some kickoffs in college. Have you heard the new kickoff rules in the NFL? Does that affect your ability as a returner?
CS: I think either way, you have to get the ball and return it. I am not going to be negative about it because you can't change it. There might be more touchbacks, but it's just something you have to adjust to. Football is a game of adjustments, and I am just going to adjust to it.
PFW: I see you are a big social media guy — what's your favorite: Facebook, Myspace or Twitter?
CS: Definitely Twitter. Everbody likes to tweet about stuff. It's more active than Facebook. Twitter is kind of an up-to-the-moment kind of thing. Facebook is like every now and then. So I just like it a little more.
PFW: OK, couple of quick hitters ... what kind of car do you drive?
CS: Actually, I don't have a car. I just got my license out in California about three weeks ago.
PFW: Really? So you've never driven before then?
CS: Not legally, no. (Laughs.)
PFW: Well, your secret is safe with us — and our tens of thousands of readers.
CS: (Laughs.) Good!
PFW: Can you sing the Mount Union fight song's first line?
CS: Oh, I have no idea. I have no clue. No clue. I don't even know if we have a fight song. Maybe we do? I'll check.
PFW: Please do. Who was your favorite NFL team growing up?
CS: The Browns, always a Browns fan. At my household, we always had two teams (we could root for). The first team was the Browns, because they were always on. The second team could be any other team you like. But you had to stick with those two teams the rest of your life. The second team — they used to be the Houston Oilers; now they are the Tennessee Titans.
PFW: Favorite music to work out to?
CS: Definitely hip hop. I like Rick Ross right now. Rick Ross, Lil' Wayne, Drake. Those are probably my favorites right now.
PFW: What's your best sport other than football?
CS: Baseball actually was my best sport growing up. I played everything but catcher.
PFW: Best movie you have seen in the last year?
CS: 'Book of Eli,' just saw it yesterday. It was pretty good.
PFW: Do you have a sense of where you'll be drafted?
CS: What I have heard most is the middle rounds. Between (rounds) four and five. I have heard everything from second to seventh, though. In the draft, anything can happen. You never know, so it's a wait-and-see thing.
PFW: On the chance you're not drafted and the lockout is still in place, NFL teams won't be able to sign you and other undrafted free agents until a new CBA is in place. Have you thought about that possibility? How frustrating would that be?
CS: I would probably be out looking for a job. You never know how long it is going to last, you know? That would be really frustrating, knowing they can't contact you. I'll probably just be working out and look for jobs at that point, maybe go back to school.