|Veteran receiving trio paces No. 19 Penn St.|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 03 September 2008 21:13|
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.''