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Chuck Landon: Shuler breaking out in big way

Oct. 03, 2012 @ 12:05 AM

Tommy Shuler is a size "Small" in an "XX-Large" world.

So, just how small is Marshall's star wide receiver?

Well, Marshall's official roster claims Shuler stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 187 pounds.

The weight?

No way.

Even Shuler admits, "I'm 180."

Which is still at least 10 pounds heavier than he appears.

As for the height, he's probably 5-7 and change. But don't expect Shuler to admit that.

"I'm 5-9," he claims.

Really, Tommy?

"Yeah, I'm 5-9," insisted Shuler.

That brought a chuckle from life-long friend Rakeem Cato.

"He wants to be tall so bad," said Marshall's quarterback.

What short guy doesn't?

The difference is Shuler doesn't allow his diminutive size to be a deterrent. Not in any way. The proof is in his performance.

After catching an FBS season-high 19 passes last week in Marshall's 51-41 loss at Purdue, Shuler leads the nation in receptions with 51 and was added to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List on Tuesday.

That's impressive at any size.

Yet, everywhere he goes Shuler is always hearing about how small he is.

"When opposing players come out on the field," said Shuler, "they say, 'You're small. You look bigger than that on film. You're small.'

"Just like the Purdue game. First possession, we got three-and-out. Then, on our next possession I catch the third-down pass for a first down. And No. 21 (Ricardo Allen) says, 'You're small. You're going to have a long day.'

"It was funny to me when he said it. I just took it and laughed. So, when we went back out for the second drive, I said, 'Cato, c'mon, let's go. We've gotta go.' We marched down there and scored."

By the end of the first quarter, Shuler already had six catches for 55 yards.

And Allen?

"No. 21 was their starting outside cornerback," said Shuler. "But they brought him to the inside and said, 'You can handle him.' By the end of the first quarter, he came to me and said, 'Man, it's hard.'

"No. 21 didn't have much more to say, other than calling for help."

That's why Purdue called in the cavalry.

"They brought No. 1 (Normondo Harris) in," said Shuler. "Then, they brought No. 7 (E.J. Johnson) in. Finally, they brought No. 21 back in. I saw all three of them. They were just rotating them on me.

"I told them, 'If ya'll are gonna keep going man, hey, it's going to be a long day.' "

The Boilermakers should have listened. But they didn't. So, Shuler caught seven more passes for 72 yards in the second quarter, another two for 39 yards in the third period and four more receptions for 36 yards in the final quarter.

He finished with 19 catches for an even 200 yards.

"When I came out of the game I thought I probably had about 13 catches," said Shuler. "Then, when I saw I had 19 I was like, 'Whew.' I didn't even know.

"I looked at Cato and he said, 'I didn't know, either.' So, it was shocking to both of us. In high school, the most I ever caught was 12. Then, I beat that against Ohio (13 catches). And, now, I just caught 19, so I don't know what's next."

What's next is Tulsa underestimating Shuler because of his size when the Golden Hurricane play Marshall at 3:30 p.m., Saturday, in Edwards Stadium.

Small world, isn't it?

Just ask Tommy Shuler.

Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827, or email him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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