Last season, quarterback Ted White drew NFL scouts to nearly all of Howard University's games. Elijah Thurmon just hopes that while the scouts watched White pass his way into the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference record book, they also watched Thurmon become one of the MEAC's best wide receivers -- and that they will remember.
The graduate of Meade High School hopes they will remember his 55 receptions, 886 yards and 9 touchdowns, which put him among the conference's top five in each of those categories. He hopes they will remember his size -- 6 feet 4, 210 pounds.
He hopes they will remember because this season, when he is a senior, Coach Steve Wilson wants to make the Bison more of a run-oriented team while junior Bobby Townsend adjusts to the starting quarterback position.
However, while that may mean fewer total opportunities for Thurmon, it may mean more opportunities in important situations -- particularly with the departure of last season's second-leading wide receiver, Cedric Redden, and the introduction of several redshirt freshmen to the regular rotation of wide receivers.
"What we have in Elijah is a go-to guy," Wilson said. "He's just special. Not only can he make the tough catch in traffic, he's got the big body. He's got the good hands."
Wilson, who played in the NFL for 10 years, counts Thurmon as a definite pro prospect. Thurmon's size is something NFL teams now covet among wide receivers. And Wilson likes how hard Thurmon works to improve himself. Last year, Thurmon was among a small group of Bison players who significantly increased their conditioning work, and he continued pushing himself to prepare for this season.
It was common to see Thurmon wake up at 6 a.m. during the offseason to run. Defensive back Omar Evans said he worked with Thurmon in the weight room throughout the summer, and Townsend said he threw to Thurmon almost daily. Both marvel at him.
"We work against each other a lot in practice," Evans said. "He possesses a mind-set that a lot of receivers don't -- he wants the contact. He's very strong, powerful, and when I go against him, I always have to be at the top of my game."
So do opponents. Thurmon made a catch during a 69-41 loss to Florida A&M last season that was one of the year's best.
White uncorked a long pass down the right sideline that appeared to be about five yards overthrown. However, Thurmon sped up, made a spectacular one-handed catch and went on for an 80-yard touchdown. Wilson still shakes his head when talking about that play, but it's just one of many things Thurmon feels he must do regularly to get noticed by the NFL scouts, including improving as a blocker.
"I have to make more big plays," Thurmon said. "I'll try to help bring players along and show my leadership capability. ... I'm trying to show all the aspects of the game. I'm trying to [perfect] my whole game."
His ability to step forward as a leader will be especially important. Howard has several other big and talented wide receivers, but 6-foot-5 Richard McEntyre -- Thurmon's likely partner in the starting lineup -- and 6-foot-3 Andre Johnson are redshirt freshmen.
"I'm going to be a big part of the offense," Thurmon said. "A lot of people are probably sleeping on us right now, but I think we have some real exciting talent. It's not going to be just me shining up there."
Jackson State W 34-8
at Hampton L 38-31
vs. Ark.-Pine Bluff W21-20
at Texas Southern L 30-7
vs. Beth.-Cookman W 32-25
vs. Florida A&M L 69-41
North Carolina A&T L 17-6
Norfolk State W 54-20
at South Carolina St.W 32-31
Morgan State W 69-3
Delaware State W 46-43