FIERRO: For Penn State wideout Jahan Dotson, just being great is no longer good enough
Jahan Dotson’s breakout 2020 season with the Penn State football team was great, as far it goes.
Dotson wants to go further. As far as he can without falling off the edge of the earth.
“I had a pretty solid season last year, I would say, but I want to have a remarkable season one that you guys will never forget,” the Nazareth High School graduate and dynamic wide receiver told reporters in a Zoom meeting Monday. “Every day I go to meetings, I write on the top of my notebook, `be legendary.’ And that’s one thing I want to preach this year is being legendary, basically, leaving my mark on Penn State football, college football as a whole.
“... For the younger guys, I want them to do the same. I want them to be better than I was, I want them to be better than I am this year. That’s the only way we’re going to have success as a wide receiver group.”
Explosive junior season: As a junior last season, Dotson exploded with 52 receptions for 884 yards and eight TDs in nine games. He also averaged 24.6 yards on eight punt returns, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
Given the way Penn State’s season went down, with five straight losses to start, four straight wins to close and no bowl game, it would have been the perfect jumping-off point toward the mega millions that await him in the NFL. He chose to continue with his education instead.
Hearing him talk this week about how he and defensive backs Jaquan Brisker and Tariq-Castro Fields discussed the reasons, it’s not hard to understand why.
“Coach [ James] Franklin always preaches championship habits and the standard of Penn State football,” Dotson said, “and we felt like last year we didn’t meet that standard. And we wanted to be those leaders on the team who set the standard for years to come after us.
“We know that Penn State football is used to winning, and that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to meet that standard and we felt like this was the perfect opportunity for us to showcase our talents and meet that standard and achieve some great goals.”
Leading by example: For the understated Dotson, that means leading more by example than by his voice. It means coming early, staying late, working extra with the quarterbacks, making sure the younger receivers have a good reason to follow so closely in meetings and on the field, even if they don’t get any practice repetitions themselves.
“What Jahan has been able to do really in the last few months and even part of last year is he’s been able to take guys to the side and talk to him in their ear a little bit closer than maybe somebody would do with a loud voice,” wide receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield said. “And typically, Jahan is somebody who does things the right way.
“He is learning and he is becoming much better at doing the extra things, doing the things that are not just required, but going in and getting more JUGS work, going in and getting more route work, getting the quarterbacks together, getting the other receivers together so that we can do some route work. And he’s doing that on his own. So I’m excited to see his growth I’m proud of him. He’s going to continue to be a better leader as he gets older.”
Looking for legendary: Yet performance counts just as much to Dotson.
“Being legendary is something that ... one person you guys know is [Whitehall’s] Saquon Barkley [of the New York Giants]. I feel that his career was legendary. That’s something we talk about to this day, it’s something I see on Instagram and Twitter every single day. I see Saquon Barkley college highlights, something like that. So just basically something that people will never forget that will live in history literally forever when you talk about the greatest that played in college football. I want my name to be mentioned in that.”
To do that, he’ll have to make his touches count. Barkley, a running back, had the football in his hands 793 times in his three years at Penn State, compared to Dotson’s 105 touches in his first three years.
But Dotson has the mental makeup and the physical ability to be one of Penn State’s all time greats at his position by the time he leaves.
“There’s always the couple guys that kind of come out of nowhere,” Franklin said, “but more times than not, it’s the guy that people were already talking about in preseason, that there was already a national buzz about. And I think Jahan fits into that category. I think at the end of last season he was playing as good as anybody. But now, coming into this year he’s coming in with a buzz and there’s a lot of excitement and anticipation about it.
“I think he’s had a really good offseason in the weight room and things like that. He just looks physically different, and that’s going to be something that’s going to be important for him as well, because whether you like it or not, the eyeball test counts.”