December 8, 2010

Shorts sees what's ahead

More news about: Mount Union

By Adam Turer
for D3sports.com

Cecil Shorts

Cecil Shorts has his eye on what's ahead -- the finish line and a shot at the second title for this Mount Union class.
Photo by Dan Poel for d3photography.com

This is why he came back. This is why he wanted to take on an even bigger role this season. This is why he waited patiently while recovering from injury, watching from the sidelines and looking for any edge to help his teammates. Cecil Shorts III knows that he only has at most two more opportunities to put on a Purple Raiders uniform. He is determined to end his storied and record-setting career by bringing the Stagg Bowl trophy back to Alliance, Ohio.

“It’s the tradition here to go deep in the playoffs,” said Shorts. “Every year I’ve been here, we’ve played for the national championship. It’s been a blessing.”

Shorts’s five years at Mount Union have not gone exactly as planned. A high school quarterback, Shorts came to Alliance intent on competing for the starting nod at that position. An injury forced him to miss most of his freshman season. That too turned out to be a blessing, as it enabled Shorts to use his extra year of eligibility this season. After seeing limited action as a backup quarterback and wide receiver in 2007, Shorts made the full transition to wide receiver.

In just three full seasons at the position, Shorts has become the Purple Raiders’ all-time leading receiver with more than 3,500 yards.

“It was a rough transition at first,” said Shorts. “I wanted to play quarterback. I thought about transferring, but I stuck it out.”

His quarterback skills give Shorts an edge that other receivers might not possess. He can read defenses like a quarterback and he knows how to best communicate with his quarterback. Each of his three seasons as a starting receiver, Shorts has had a different starting quarterback, but he has been able to quickly develop a strong relationship with each one.

“I know where the quarterback wants me to be and I can help the quarterback read coverages,” said Shorts. “I’m still learning. I’ve only played wide receiver for three years. I’m starting to get the hang of it.”

Understatements aside, Shorts has worked very hard to become Mount Union’s top receiver and the 2009 D3football.com Offensive Player of the Year. He has also established himself as a bona fide NFL draft prospect, with prognosticators suggesting Shorts could be as high as a fourth-round pick in April. Shorts credits those small-school players that came before him, including his former teammate and mentor Pierre Garçon, for shedding light on the talented players in all divisions of college football.

“I watched Pierre in practice, the way he blocked and ran routes,” said Shorts. “Then after he graduated, I watched film on him. I try to emulate him and do even better than he did. Pierre, London Fletcher, Danny Woodhead, Miles Austin — those guys opened the door for players like me to get recognized.”

Pro scouts have been attending Mount Union practices this season. After Shorts put up 178 receptions for 3,220 yards and 42 touchdowns in the previous two seasons, the spotlight was shining on him.

“I was a little nervous the first time a scout came to practice,” admitted Shorts. “Now, I just play and let my actions speak for themselves.”

One of the biggest beneficiaries of Shorts’s talents and knowledge of the game has been sophomore quarterback Neal Seaman. Seaman battled Shorts and Kurt Rocco for the starting quarterback job last season and honed his skills by backing up Rocco for a year. He has played like a veteran, in large part thanks to the veteran targets he has in tight end Kyle Miller and Shorts.

“When I drop back, I know he’ll get open no matter what the coverage is,” said Seaman of Shorts. “He runs great routes.”

Shorts has embraced the leadership role on an otherwise young team. Several sophomores and juniors start on both sides of the ball for the Purple Raiders.

“Starting at quarterback as a sophomore at Mount Union is a big deal,” said Shorts. “It brings a lot of pressure, but Neal has handled it well.”

The leadership of the senior class has helped Seaman and running back Jeremy Murray have breakout years. When Shorts missed four games this season with a toe injury, his teammates rallied to fill in.

“It was different and frustrating not being able to help or contribute,” said Shorts. “I think it helped me get my mind right and get even more focused. My whole mindset was to come back better than I ever was before.”

The first time he touched the ball upon his return, Shorts took a kickoff 80 yards to the house. Shorts has scored 13 touchdowns in the five games since his return from injury. He had never returned punts or kickoffs prior to this season, but approached his coaches before the season and talked about playing more special teams. Shorts has scored three return touchdowns this season.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and it’s worked out well,” said Shorts of adding return specialist to his repertoire. “It’s real exciting. You can change the game like that.”

Bethel last faced Mount Union in the playoffs in 2007 and the Royals were torched by Garçon. Shorts even saw mop-up action at quarterback and ran for a touchdown in the 62-14 blowout. This time around, Shorts figures to be the game-changer.

Royals defensive coordinator Jimmie Miller remembers that 2007 game, but would probably like to forget it.

“Shorts is a pretty explosive player,” said Miller. “We didn’t do too good against Pierre in 2007. They always have an explosive offense. Shorts and Miller will put a lot of pressure on our secondary.”

Shorts was one of the underclassmen on the 2007 team, when Mount Union lost to UW-Whitewater in the Stagg Bowl. He remembers how bad he felt for his senior teammates that day. Now that he is entering the final stretch of his playing days at Mount Union, he is trying to lead by example for his younger teammates.

“It’s a different feeling when you’re a senior,” said Shorts. “Every game can be your last. I can’t explain it to the younger guys, but they can see my focus. I do not want this to end yet.”

Seaman sees the focus of his senior teammates and is just as eager to wash away the bad taste of last year’s second-place finish. The Purple Raiders are not overlooking Bethel this week. They know how important each game is to the program and especially to the seniors.

“We want to get a championship for the seniors,” said Seaman. “They deserve it. They are always encouraging us to keep our head up. It helps that they are great players, too. We’ll bust our butt and do everything we can to get them two more wins.”

Sep. 23: All times Eastern
Final
at Bridgewater State 34, Fitchburg State 25
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Sep. 24: All times Eastern
Final
Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
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at Hobart 27, Union 23
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at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
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at Massachusetts Maritime 32, Worcester State 14
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at Endicott 37, Nichols 0
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MIT 30, at Maine Maritime 13
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at Buffalo State 40, Morrisville State 24
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at Salve Regina 48, Coast Guard 10
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St. Lawrence 20, at RPI 14
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at Framingham State 23, Western Connecticut 17
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at Montclair State 21, Rowan 14
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at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
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at Trinity (Conn.) 38, Bates 7
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at Western New England 59, Curry 28
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at Utica 24, Cortland 13
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Colby 9, at Williams 7
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at Middlebury 40, Bowdoin 3
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at Amherst 34, Hamilton 0
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Kean 24, at William Paterson 13
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at DePauw 66, Hiram 17
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Franklin and Marshall 45, at Juniata 22
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at Kenyon 31, Allegheny 7
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Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
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Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
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Lycoming 28, at Misericordia 24
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at Plymouth State 30, Mass-Dartmouth 14
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at Husson 35, Alfred State 0
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at Springfield 28, WPI 23
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at Moravian 24, Dickinson 10
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at Denison 45, Wooster 7
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at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
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at St. Vincent 57, Grove City 32
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at Susquehanna 55, Gettysburg 40
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at King's 21, Lebanon Valley 17
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at Alfred 20, Ithaca 6
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at Widener 25, Wilkes 23
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at McDaniel 30, Ursinus 27
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at Muskingum 28, Marietta 10
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at Minnesota-Morris 28, Iowa Wesleyan 27
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at John Carroll 42, Heidelberg 14
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Ohio Northern 16, at Otterbein 10
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Case Western Reserve 35, at Waynesburg 7
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at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
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Rose-Hulman 23, at Defiance 15
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at Centre 49, Chicago 27
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at Mount St. Joseph 38, Manchester 19
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Hanover 49, at Anderson 25
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at Merchant Marine 55, Rochester 7
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Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
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Concordia-Chicago 42, at Maranatha Baptist 10
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Washington U. 36, at Birmingham-Southern 21
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UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
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at Northwestern (Minn.) 38, Martin Luther 20
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at Eureka 28, MacMurray 13
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at Westminster (Mo.) 35, Greenville 14
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Dubuque 30, at Luther 17
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Monmouth 52, at Lake Forest 6
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St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
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at Augsburg 49, Carleton 17
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Bethel 44, at St. Olaf 7
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at Hamline 42, Gustavus Adolphus 40
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at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
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at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
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at UW-River Falls 42, Southwestern 22
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Simpson 17, at Buena Vista 9
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at St. Scholastica 49, Crown 13
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Cornell 46, at Beloit 41
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at Carthage 27, Augustana 24
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Coe 48, at Nebraska Wesleyan 17
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at Wartburg 56, Finlandia 0
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at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
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Hendrix 42, at Millsaps 14
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Illinois Wesleyan 45, at North Park 10
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at Macalester 34, Grinnell 0
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at Ripon 33, Knox 19
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Illinois College 40, at Lawrence 15
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UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
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Central 42, at Loras 34
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at Geneva 35, Thiel 27
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UW-Eau Claire 40, at Wisconsin Lutheran 14
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St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
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UW-Stevens Point 44, at Adrian 19
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UW-La Crosse 41, at Carroll 7
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at Berry 41, Sewanee 3
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Final
Westminster (Pa.) 38, at Bethany 9
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Ohio Wesleyan 29, at Oberlin 16
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at Tufts 17, Wesleyan 14
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Final
Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
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Final
at Capital 35, Wilmington 21
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Final
at Southwestern Assemblies 23, Austin 17
Cancelled
Langston at McMurry
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Final
at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
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Final
at Chapman 19, Trinity (Texas) 17
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Sep. 24: All times Eastern
Final
at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
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Final
at Hobart 27, Union 23
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Final
Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
Final
at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
Box Score
Final
Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
Box Score
Final
Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Utica 24, Cortland 13
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
Box Score Recap
Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
Box Score Recap
Final
Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
Box Score
Final
St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
Final
UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
Box Score
Final
UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
Box Score
Final
Central 42, at Loras 34
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
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Final
Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
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Final
at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
Box Score Recap