Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 24, 2002
TSU wideout put up big numbers last year; this season he envisions more
By KEVIN PEARCEY
Line ’em up, Heyward Skipper says.
Glancing over Troy State’s upcoming football schedule on Monday, Skipper, the Trojans’ wide receiver All-American candidate, said he "loved" what Athletic Director Johnny Williams has wrought.
Nebraska, again. Mississippi State, again. Arkansas, Marshall, Iowa State and Missouri. Three Big 12’s, two SEC’s and a team TSU is 0-2 against in the MAC’s Thundering Herd.
Skipper says bring them own.
"I wish we could have got maybe one more big school, but it’s a great schedule," he said. "Nebraska, Missouri, Mississippi State, Arkansas…I love it, I love it."
The Trojans went 7-4 last year and Skipper had something to do with that. He was five-yards shy of 1,000 for the season, scored nine touchdowns and was quarterback Brock Nutter’s hot receiver when the chips were down and TSU needed something to happen.
Like Troy State running back Demontray Carter, head coach Larry Blakeney called Skipper "something special" and a player that has the uncanny ability to turn a sure negative into a positive. At a soggy Scott Field in Starkville last year, Skipper finished the game with only four catches but had his best outing as a punt returner against Mississippi State. His 35-yard, tackle-shaking return in the second quarter was a lesson in determination and set up Troy State’s final touchdown of the game. The Trojans won 21-9.
This, from a player Blakeney verbally berated during a preseason scrimmage last August. The Trojans were practicing special teams and looking for a punter with Skipper playing deep safety to haul in the kicks. Blakeney chastised the Baxley, Ga., native back to the sideline when it appeared that Skipper was getting a bit too nonchalant about his duties.
But come the start of the regular season, Skipper never let up, accumulating 995 total yards and going over 100 yards receiving in four ball games.
Blakeley knew his then-junior wide out had it him all along.
"They’re able to reach inside and find something," Blakeley said about both Carter and Skipper following the win over Mississippi State. "If you see that they’re slacking off a bit, all you have to do is tell them and they’re able to pick it up just like that."
Sometimes it appeared Skipper was having to carry too much of the load as Troy State offensive coordinator John Shannon worked to find a player to take some of the heat off of his top wide out.
Skipper said he didn’t mind.
"I play receiver," he said. "It’s my dream to get the ball and have a 10-catch, 250-yard game. I like that. I like the reliability they put on my shoulders. I want to go out every game and do my part."
Despite his desire for the football, Skipper found a good running mate when Drew Amerson chose to transfer to Troy State following the cancellation of Cal-State Northridge’s football program. Amerson was an All-American last year for the Matadors, catching 1,244 yards worth of passes.
"They may change some coverages up for me," said Skipper about opposing defenses. "But Drew’s going to neutralize all of that. We have a lot of talented receivers out there and he’s for sure going to help keep the defense honest. Probably after the first few games they’re going to be trying to double him."
Skipper’s play hasn’t gone unnoticed. Phil Steele’s 2002 College Football Preview listed him as the 19th best wide receiver in the country.
"I’ve seen it," said Skipper about the preseason publicity. "But I’m just going to go into every game and try to have the best game of my life, the same as I did last year. I’m just going to go out and play hard and let things fall where they may."