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. 1: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Coast Guard at Anna Maria
7:00 PM
Defiance at Baldwin Wallace
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Washington and Lee at Johns Hopkins
7:30 PM
Trine at Manchester
8:00 PM
Millsaps at Belhaven
Sep. 2: All times Eastern
TBA
Muhlenberg at Wilkes
6:00 PM
Mass-Dartmouth at Mount Ida
6:00 PM
Delaware Valley at Wesley
7:00 PM
N.C. Wesleyan at Stevenson
7:00 PM
Western New England at Springfield
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Fitchburg State at Becker
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Albright at Salisbury
7:00 PM
WPI at MIT
7:00 PM
Salve Regina at Worcester State
7:00 PM
Bridgewater State at Curry
7:00 PM
Morrisville State at St. Lawrence
10:00 PM
Adrian at Pacific
Sep. 3: All times Eastern
TBA
Endicott at Framingham State
TBA
Kean at Christopher Newport
TBA
King's at Moravian
Live Stats
TBA
Lebanon Valley at Franklin and Marshall
TBA
Marietta at Denison
TBA
McDaniel at Catholic
TBA
Wisconsin Lutheran at Trinity Int'l
TBA
UW-Platteville at George Fox
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Washington U. at Carnegie Mellon
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Chicago at Case Western Reserve
12:00 PM
Husson at Alfred
12:00 PM
SUNY-Maritime at Maine Maritime
Video
12:00 PM
Cortland at Heidelberg
12:00 PM
Otterbein at Buffalo State
12:00 PM
Ursinus at Bethany
12:00 PM
Sewanee at Kenyon
1:00 PM
Plymouth State at Castleton
Live Stats
1:00 PM
RPI at Norwich
1:00 PM
Randolph-Macon at Dickinson
1:00 PM
Oberlin at Kalamazoo
1:00 PM
Emory and Henry at Ferrum
1:00 PM
Wooster at Washington and Jefferson
1:00 PM
Alfred State at William Paterson
1:00 PM
St. Vincent at Alma
1:00 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at Finlandia
1:00 PM
Olivet at St. John Fisher
1:00 PM
Rowan at Widener
1:00 PM
Hobart at Brockport
1:00 PM
Union at Ithaca
1:00 PM
Susquehanna at Lycoming
1:00 PM
Utica at Misericordia
1:00 PM
The Apprentice School at Methodist
1:00 PM
TCNJ at UW-Whitewater
1:30 PM
Wilmington at Bluffton
1:30 PM
Monmouth at Hope
1:30 PM
Bridgewater at Gettysburg
1:30 PM
Muskingum at Waynesburg
1:30 PM
Juniata at Grove City
2:00 PM
Lakeland at Carroll
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
UW-Stevens Point at St. Norbert
2:00 PM
Austin at Hendrix
2:00 PM
Maranatha Baptist at Martin Luther
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Millikin at Greenville
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Eureka at Knox
Live Stats
2:00 PM
MacMurray at Rockford
2:00 PM
Gustavus Adolphus at Westminster (Mo.)
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
UW-La Crosse at Luther
2:00 PM
Beloit at Lake Forest
2:00 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at Jamestown
2:00 PM
Crown at Hamline
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Carleton at Macalester
2:00 PM
Bethel at Dubuque
2:00 PM
St. Scholastica at St. John's
Live Stats
2:00 PM
St. Olaf at Grinnell
2:00 PM
Buena Vista at Mayville St.
2:00 PM
Simpson at UW-Stout
2:00 PM
Aurora at Carthage
2:00 PM
UW-River Falls at Coe
2:00 PM
Ripon at Concordia-Chicago
2:00 PM
Elmhurst at Loras
2:00 PM
Huntingdon at Louisiana College
2:00 PM
North Central (Ill.) at Robert Morris-Chicago
2:00 PM
Benedictine at Wheaton (Ill.)
2:00 PM
John Carroll at UW-Oshkosh
2:30 PM
Southern Virginia at Earlham
Live Stats
2:30 PM
Lawrence at Presentation
4:00 PM
La Verne at Puget Sound
Live Stats
4:00 PM
Central at Whitworth
5:00 PM
Hartwick at Western Connecticut
6:00 PM
Wabash at Albion
6:00 PM
Maryville (Tenn.) at Berry
6:00 PM
Augustana at Mount St. Joseph
6:00 PM
Thomas More at Franklin
Live Stats
6:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Averett
6:00 PM
Redlands at Trinity (Texas)
7:00 PM
Hiram at Westminster (Pa.)
7:00 PM
Thiel at Allegheny
7:00 PM
Capital at Wittenberg
7:00 PM
Shenandoah at Gallaudet
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Illinois College at Rose-Hulman
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Hanover at Centre
7:00 PM
Geneva at Frostburg State
7:00 PM
Nichols at Westfield State
7:00 PM
Greensboro at Guilford
Live Stats
7:00 PM
LaGrange at Birmingham-Southern
7:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Southwestern
7:00 PM
Anderson at North Park
7:00 PM
Ohio Wesleyan at Mary Hardin-Baylor
7:00 PM
East Texas Baptist at Texas Lutheran
7:10 PM
St. Thomas at UW-Eau Claire
Video Live Stats
8:00 PM
Willamette at Rhodes
8:00 PM
Cornell at Iowa Wesleyan
Live Stats
8:00 PM
Augsburg at Northwestern (Minn.)
Live Stats
8:00 PM
Southwestern Assemblies at Howard Payne
8:00 PM
Sul Ross State at UT-Permian Basin
Dec. 18: All times Eastern
Final
Mount Union 49, at St. Thomas 35
@ Salem, Va.
Box Score Recap Recap Photos