Chuck Landon: Kersey learns to overcome his nerves
Perhaps, it's performance anxiety.
Maybe that is what happened to Shawney Kersey in both of Marshall's officiated scrimmages during spring football practice.
It might just be an old-fashioned case of stage fright.
If so, that's an intriguing story line to watch during Marshall's annual Green-White Fan Fest at 2 p.m. Saturday in Edwards Stadium.
Nothing else makes sense.
I mean, how can the ultra-talented wide receiver be so good during practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays with only a handful of fans in attendance, but then so butter-fingered on Saturdays when 100 or more spectators are watching?
That definitely has been the trend.
During the first scrimmage on April 13, Kersey got behind the entire secondary and, then, dropped a should-be touchdown pass from quarterback Blake Frohnapfel. Then, he dropped another key pass from quarterback Rakeem Cato on a "free play" after a penalty. Next, Kersey dropped yet another sure touchdown pass from Cato.
If all that weren't bad enough, the final indignity occurred when Kersey didn't hear an audible and was blocking downfield with his back to the play when Cato's pass struck him in the back.
Afterward, Kersey sought solitude.
"I just felt real bad," said the graduate transfer from Penn State. "I was real upset. I just sat in the room and thought about some things. The first thing that came to my mind after I kind of relaxed and settled down was this is adversity.
"But I was still thinking, 'Man, if there was just another scrimmage tomorrow.' "
There wasn't so, instead, Kersey faced some facts.
"This is my last year," he said. "Like coach (Doc Holliday) said, my clock is ticking. I need to not be afraid to be great and just go for it."
So, at the next practice Kersey made a tough catch that brought Cato and fellow wideout Tommy Shuler off the sideline to congratulate him. Then, on that Thursday, he turned a slant into a 70-yard touchdown jaunt and dunked the football over the cross bar of the goal post for an exclamation point.
But, alas, another scrimmage loomed on April 20.
And, again, Kersey faltered.
The 6-foot-1, 191-pound speedster dropped the first two passes thrown his way and didn't snag a slant he should have caught. Yet, Kersey bounced back with another touchdown catch during the following Tuesday practice.
That sets the stage for today's final scrimmage.
And Kersey's mindset?
"Maybe I needed that," he philosophized. "After I talked to Doc, he said that I was a great kid but the only thing I need to do was learn how to get over adversity.
"Even if I had done great in those scrimmages, I still think I would have had to learn that lesson about adversity ... sooner or later. I'm glad it came sooner. Now, I'm looking forward to everything. I'm not afraid to mess up. I feel more comfortable."
These are good life lessons.
"These are perfect life lessons," replied Kersey. "Football always teaches you life lessons, in the most unusual ways. But once you get old enough, you start realizing things and listening and understanding what a lot of older guys tell you like Joe Paterno and Holliday.
"You become more relaxed and confident."
That's the Kersey fans will see Saturday. Will he drop a pass or two? Maybe. But he also might make a big catch. He has learned to take the bad with the good.
Inevitably, that will make him a better person.
Not to mention, player.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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