STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -They're small, quick and dart around the field wearing blue-and-white outfits.
Penn State's Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood form one of the most reliable receiving trios in college football. Their accomplishments have earned them nicknames that usually involve the number ``three,'' as in ``The Three Musketeers,'' though none of them have really stuck.
But a new nickname - ``Smurfs'' - came as a bit of a surprise to the 5-foot-11 Norwood.
``I actually haven't heard that yet,'' Norwood deadpanned to a reporter who brought up the nickname this week. ``That's news to me, but thank you for bringing that to my attention.''
The 6-foot Williams is the tallest, while Butler is listed at 5-10. They might be short compared to receivers at other major programs, but Williams, Butler and Norwood have made plenty of big catches for No. 19 Penn State.
Each senior is relatively soft-spoken and deflects attention to teammates. Butler may have the most mischievous streak of the three.
They're climbing the Penn State record books together, too.
Entering the Nittany Lions' game Saturday versus Oregon State, Butler is tied for fourth on the school's career touchdown list with 15. His 134 career receptions are second in school history behind Bobby Engram's 167. Norwood is fourth on that list with 121, two ahead of fifth-place Williams.
Butler also has 1,990 receiving yards, fourth on the school's career list. Norwood (1,452) is 11th, while Williams is 14th (1,303).
The big numbers are in large part due to extensive playing time since their freshman seasons in 2005, when they helped the Nittany Lions earn a BCS berth and a Big Ten title.
They wouldn't mind finishing their careers the same way, either.
``I'm just taking this whole thing like a job,'' Williams said. ``One and done, I'm in my last year.''
Each came to the spotlight by slightly different paths.
Williams arrived as the star recruit of Paterno's 2005 freshman class, a highly touted playmaker for a team that, back then, desperately needed an infusion of speed. He hasn't quite lived up to the top-recruit hype, though he's still had a good career. Now a team captain, the solidly built Williams can go deep and turn any return into a touchdown.
The baby-faced Norwood looks more like a ballboy than a football player with his lanky, 171-pound frame. But it's a frame that takes a beating - and bounces back - week after week. His specialty is darting into the middle of the field to make painfully tough catches.
``Going across the middle, I can see the defenders, I prepare my body for the hit, kind of maneuver so it's the least impact as possible,'' Norwood said. ``But whether I drop it or catch it, I'm going to get hit, so might as well catch it.''
Norwood had connections when he arrived at Penn State - his father, Brian, was an assistant coach, but has since left to become the defensive coordinator at Baylor.
Norwood excels in part because of his ability to read coverages from the slot, a benefit of lots of study of the playbook, Butler said.
Of the three, Butler followed the most unlikely path to success.
Initially a walk-on defensive back, Butler redshirted his first season in Happy Valley, in 2004, before being moved to receiver the following year after impressing on the scout team.
He soon began impressing on the field, with a school freshman record nine touchdown catches.
``Obviously I don't think I was thinking records,'' Butler said about his initial start as a walk-on. ``That is something amazing you can look back on.''
Butler, like Williams, has the ability to stretch the field. All three players offer comforting targets for new starting quarterback Daryll Clark, and all three block well.
As for the ``Smurf'' nickname? Butler, at least, takes it in stride.
``I'm not a 6-foot-5 giant,'' he said. ``You have to take a lot of pride in what you do. We use our speed and quickness.''

Recent NCAAF Discussions

ACC Conference Preview on Mon, Jul 2016 by Blade
Handicapping 2016 Win Totals on Mon, Jul 2016 by Blade
Big 12 Conference Betting Preview on Mon, Jul 2016 by Blade
2016 College Conference Previews on Sun, Jul 2016 by Blade
Advertisement
Advertisement

NCAAF Headlines

More inNCAAF News  

NCAAF Top Stories

Thumbnail Arkansas Season Win Total Prediction Few teams in college football ended the 2015 season with more momentum than the Arkansas Razorbacks. Now that the word is out, though,...
Thumbnail Iowa Win Total Prediction Following a Big Ten West Division Championship in 2015, can the Iowa Hawkeyes put together another big year in 2016?
Thumbnail Washington State Win Total Prediction After winning 10 games a year ago, will the Washington State Cougars build off their 2015 campaign or take a step back in 2016?
Thumbnail Oklahoma State Season Win Total Prediction Even in the pass-happy Big 12, a true contender for the conference championship must gain tough yards on the ground. That explains precisely where Oklahoma...
Thumbnail Wisconsin Win Total Prediction After a 10-win season in 2015, can the Wisconsin Badgers make a push for the Big Ten Championship in 2016?
More inNCAAF Articles  

NCAAF Team Pages

Advertisement