- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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LOS ANGELES -- Some enterprising college recruiter should go ahead and offer Dae'shon Kerley a scholarship.
Never mind that this prospect just turned 2 years old in November. Check out the bloodlines. His mother is Kristal Juarez, a TCU track All-American and school record holder in the 400 meters. His father is TCU wideout/returner Jeremy Kerley, one of the most electrifying players in college football.
So just how fast will little Dae'shon be one day?
"He's fast right now, man," Kerley said. "He's so athletic. I wish I could just borrow a little bit of his energy. That dude's crazy."
If Papa Kerley is impressed, that's saying something. There doesn't seem to be much in which Kerley doesn't excel at in sports, and he could prove to be the difference-maker in Saturday's Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.
The 5-foot-10 senior leads the team in receiving with 50 catches for 517 yards and 10 touchdowns. He's also the two-time Mountain West special teams player of the year who ranks in the Top 20 nationally on both punt and kickoff returns. TCU will line him up in all sorts of places and use him in different ways, including handoffs and the occasional pass on a trick play. That's why he was named one of three finalists for the inaugural Paul Hornung Award, which recognizes college football's most versatile player.
"This guy can change the game in an instant," Wisconsin safety Aaron Henry said. "It's our job to recognize him every play of every down. I'm not saying any of those other guys can't make plays, but he can change the game, whether it's on punt return, kickoff return or even on offense catching a 2-yard throw and taking it for 70 or 80. "
Kerley compares himself to former NFL return specialist Dante Hall and says his favorite player to watch now is New Orleans' Reggie Bush. Like both of those guys, he's undersized but incredibly shifty. His stop-and-start-filled 69-yard punt return for a touchdown against Colorado State became a YouTube hit last year.
Kerley says he'd rather start the game with a punt return than catching a pass, but, like Bush, he's a Swiss Army knife player who gives TCU's coaching staff all kinds of options.
"While he's a very talented young man, he also has football intelligence, which allows you to do different things with him," TCU co-offensive coordinator Jarrett Anderson said. "You can kind of just throw him in there. He can figure it out on the fly.
"Obviously he is incredible at change of direction. He's not afraid to go over the middle and make the tough catch. He's got great ball skills, all those sorts of things, which adds a great element that we can sit in the staff room and say, what do we want to do today with Jeremy?"
When it comes to athletic endeavors the question is, what can't Jeremy do?
He was a four-sport star growing up in Hutto, Texas, a tiny town in his youth that has since boomed as an Austin bedroom community. As a quarterback, he led his high school team to its first-ever Texas state championship game as a junior.
But baseball was and remains his first love. He played centerfield and pitched in high school and boasts that he had a 94-to-95-mph fastball. Kerley planned on playing baseball at TCU as well as football but decided to concentrate on football. He calls that his biggest regret, vowing to return to the sport after college.
His small stature and small-town background helped him fly under the recruiting radar for a while, but Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops offered a scholarship to Kerley as a senior. By then, though, the Horned Frogs had already formed a strong relationship.
Kerley is the type who thrives on pressure and big atmospheres, so he could raise his game in the Rose Bowl. His ability to change field position, break tackles and play anywhere concerns Wisconsin. Said Badgers defensive coordinator Dave Doeren: "We have to account for him all the time."
Kerley's time in college is almost up, save perhaps for one more breakout performance. But recruiters be advised: there's another one just 16 years away from eligibility.
1hJosh Moyer and Dan Murphy