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Penn State Football: Shorter Ready To Finally Get Back To Playing

by on May 29, 2019 7:00 AM

Justin Shorter would put on his pads and play a game right now if someone was up for it.

He is a Dr. Seuss of readiness when it comes to his anticipation of finally seeing the field again. He would play football in the rain, he would watch his film on a train. There is no situation, no weather, no obstacle to slow Shorter down now.

Which is maybe why he and a few other receivers have taken to the practice field late at night to work on their craft, the season so close and yet so far away. If they can't play a game, this is the next best thing.

"We just run our routes," Shorter said last week, "Go through our plays, all of that stuff."

For the redshirt freshman, this season is his chance to finally show everyone what he can do. The former No. 1 overall wideout prospect was hobbled with an injury last summer and never got his feet underneath him. He had three catches, but that was it. All the hype and potential would have to wait for another day.

And that day is oh so close now.

"I feel like I have so much more control over my body," Shorter said, a wide smile across his face. "A year ago I would jump up in the air and catch the ball and flop everywhere but this year I feel like I can keep my body in the air and I'm so much stronger, honestly.

"It was tough, just being banged up and not being able to do what I love and maybe have my first year go as I wanted it to. But you've just got to work hard and keep going. God is going to put bumps in the road, you've just got to keep on working."

The good news for Shorter is that waiting might pay off. At 6-foot-4 and stronger than just 12 months ago, Penn State is desperately looking for big targets and confident hands to help quarterback Sean Clifford, especially in the absence of Juwan Johnson. While the likes of Jahan Dotson and KJ Hamler won't be sitting on the sideline anytime soon, Shorter could go from not really playing at all, to being a top target just like that.

Of course, as 2018-19 showcased, being a target and making the catch are two very different things.

"They always say that you gain confidence by doing something over and over again," Shorter said of catching with confidence. "So whenever I come out here I'm always trying to put in work 100%, game speed, and think that I'm in a game. So I just think that putting in the work helps gain that confidence."

Even Shorter knows that practicing isn't the same thing as the real deal. You can see Beaver Stadium above the trees at the Lasch Building, calling out to him to finally play a real game again.

And as he looks at it, he gets a little bouncy, and a little distracted.

"I can't wait for that first game. I already know I'm just going to go out there confident and angry and just start dominating. Waiting that year has definitely made me itch a little bit more to get out there."

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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