Get used to the name Cecil Shorts III - you’re going to be hearing it a lot from now on. With a touchdown reception in each of his last three games and 291 yards receiving in the same span, the under-the-radar Mount Union alum is a rising star for a Jacksonville franchise that’s long been searching for young playmakers. On target for his first 1000-yard season and leading the league in yards per catch at 20.8, there’s no question it’s found one in Cecil.
And that’s not all. Along with highly touted rookie WR Justin Blackmon and veteran QB Chad Henne, Cecil is a core member of an increasingly potent passing attack that will make its way to British shores for an International Series game against the 49ers next October. Better yet, the team will play not one but three games annually at Wembley from 2013-2015.
Can the Jags become London’s team? Cecil certainly thinks so, telling Team Talk he hopes London becomes a home away from home. He also answered your Twitter and email questions, talked a little fantasy, and told us the story behind the ‘III’ that suffixes his distinctive name.
Cecil, would it be fair this is something of a breakout season?
CSIII: Yeah I think so. Last year I had only two catches, so things are working out! It’s down to hard work, dedication, learning the system and having a good wide receivers coach (in Jerry Sullivan). The game has slowed down for me. It didn’t hurt that I took part in Larry Fitzgerald’s summer camp too.
You’ve become expert at scoring on long touchdown plays (including an 80-yard touchdown catch in Indianapolis, a 67-yarder against Houston, and a 59-yarder versus Tennessee last week). What’s the secret?
CSIII: Well, as Coach says, the first thing is to catch the ball! After that, it’s about making the most out of your opportunities. My mindset is to score on every play, to take it the distance.
How does it feel when you do?
CSIII: It’s exciting. When you’re in it you’re just running, but when you see just grass in front of you… it’s one of the best feelings you can have.
The Jaguars are having a so-so season at 2-9 but there are real signs of life. Do you feel good about the direction the team is heading?
CSIII: Yes. The last two games we’ve played extremely well and the team feels like we have a bright future. We’ve got lots of guys who can make plays and we’re working for next year, working to finish strong. We’re young, and I think Justin Blackmon is going to be an incredible receiver in this league and I think Blaine Gabbert is going to be an incredible quarterback too.
Chad Henne has taken over at quarterback this season. And it seems to be working out…
CSIII: Chad is, one, a great guy and, two, a great competitor. He’s fiery and he’s in his fifth year in the league so he brings that veteran savvy. He prepares awesomely. The last two weeks we came close against Houston and won against Tennessee, and in that time Chad has played so well and become the leader of this team.
You’re travelling to London next year for the International Series game in Wembley against the 49ers on 27 October 2013… looking forward to it?
CSIII: Absolutely! We’re all excited here. Personally I’ve never been to London - I’ve never been outside of the United States - so I’m excited to be there and see everything.
Are there specific things you want to check out?
CSIII: It’s a business trip first, of course, but I just want to see everything - I don’t want to miss out on nothing! I want to get out there in the free time I have and be a tourist and just learn.
How about the fact the Jags are coming not just in 2012, but for the next three years?
CSIII: It’s great. We want to be London’s team and we’re going there to help build our fanbase and win the London fans over. It’ll be awesome to find some new international supporters. To have that homefield atmosphere there would be lovely, a wonderful feeling.
Some questions from Twitter followers for you now Cecil. Torn Shaun asks: ‘You played quarterback in your early college days before switching to wide receiver, do you ever miss playing the position?’
CSIII: Yes! Yes! Yes! I played it my whole life so I miss it a lot. I love having the ball in my hands and the pressure that goes with it - it can lead to praise or it can lead to blame. You never know, maybe I’ll get some Wildcat action some point in the future. I’m always teasing the quarterbacks coach (Greg Olsen) saying: ‘I can throw the ball! I’ve got the fourth best arm on the team!’
Olly Cooper asks: ‘Cecil it seems like you’ve had a lot of success on posts and slants. What are the keys to running those routes for you?’
CSIII: You have to read the coverage and get the correct depth. Chad always explains where he wants us to be and it’s key to be on the same page with the quarterback. It’s repetition and practice and communication, then soon it becomes second nature.
Gary Duarte has written in: ‘You went to Mount Union along with Redskins WR Pierre Garcon, and you’ve both become reliable big plays threats. Is it just a Mount Union thing?’
CSIII: Maybe there’s something in that Ohio water! I watched and Pierre for a couple of years and he’s a great guy, a great competitor. I think we both just have a knack for making big plays and we’re proud of being from a small Division III school. It’s a blessing.
Simon_Salmon asks: ‘Cecil, I read today you’re hurting a bit. Are you OK and is keeping the body healthy through the regular season a never-ending challenge?’
CSIII: First up, I’m fine right now and it’s nothing major. But it’s a long, gruelling season and it’s tough to stay healthy throughout. You’re working hard from April to December to make your living and it can be very tough at times.
Sheila D asks: ‘Can you tell us about Cecil Shorts I and Cecil Shorts II?’
CSIII: My grandfather - Cecil Shorts I - was a professional boxer who was well known around Cleveland, and my father - Cecil Shorts II - is a well known high school coach in Cleveland too. Not only that but I have a son now who is Cecil Shorts IV. And who knows, if my son has a son of his own and he chooses to keep the name going, there may yet be a Cecil Shorts V!
Fantasy football time now Cecil - have you ever played much?
CSIII: You know, I never have but I know how big it’s become and there are guys on the team like (Week 1 Team Talk interviewee) Maurice Jones-Drew who play a lot.
We need you to help the many thousands of UK fans who play NFLUK fantasy. Name your dream NFLUK fantasy team featuring a quarterback, two running backs, two receivers, a tight end, kicker and defense…
CSIII: At quarterback if I had to pick just one it’d be Tom Brady. My two running backs would be Arian Foster - because he’ll get yardage rushing and receiving - and Adrian Peterson, but only because my boy Maurice Jones-Drew is hurt right now. At receiver I’m not going to pick myself - but I encourage others to! I’ll take two receivers who are playing lights out: Calvin Johnson and AJ Green. Tight end I’ll go with the Jaguars’ Marcedes Lewis. He’s playing really well and he was a Pro Bowler two years ago. I’ll go with the 49ers’ defense - though hopefully they won’t be as good next year if we’re playing them - and at kicker it’s got to be our own Josh Scobee. The Scobester is one of the best.
What are you going to call your team?
CSIII: Simply ‘The Team’ because it’ll be unbeatable.
Let’s finish up with your goals for the rest of the 2012 regular season…
CSIII: As a team we want to win out and finish on a good note, get momentum going into next season. Individually I’d like to play well and get 1000 yards and double digit touchdowns. The team and winning comes first but those things would be nice.
And any message for London fans you’ll be meeting firsthand in 2013?
CSIII: Yes: To all the fans, just keep cheering us hard. And I’m looking forward to meeting you all!
To find out who’s up next in our Team Talk interviews, keep an eye on @NFL_UK and @MikeELawrence on Tuesday afternoons. You can submit questions for our next interviewee on Tuesdays @MikeELawrence.