A.J. Green is not the only wide receiver from Georgia who is having an impressive first year in Cincinnati.
Bearcat freshman Alex Chisum - from Sandy Creek H.S. in Fayetteville, Georgia - will enter the Liberty Bowl with 18 catches for 290 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a 22-yard TD grab in the regular season finale against UConn.
"He's mature beyond his age and I think that's a by-product of playing at Sandy Creek in a great high school program," said head coach Butch Jones. "He had the big catch to win the state championship last year. He's the model of consistency and you could see him getting better, and better, and better. That breeds self-confidence, and as he progressed, our players gained much more confidence in him as well."
"He's a guy that I want on the field all of the time," said quarterback Zach Collaros. "I'm always asking the coaches for ways to get him on the field. He did a great job over the summer, but he's really come on over the past few weeks."
Chisum is 6'3" and is drawing comparisons to a former Bearcat wide receiver that not only is the same height, but wore the same uniform number at UC - Armon Binns.
"He's kind of like the #80 that we used to have," said Collaros. "He knows how to play the ball in the air and if you needed to be bailed out of something he can usually bail you out."
"Oh yea, I get that a lot," said Chisum. "Ever since I got here, people have said, 'You look like Armon Binns...you run routes just like Armon...you're like a little Armon.' I've come to accept it. At first I didn't really see it, but now I consider it to be a compliment."
Binns is currently on the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad and has taken a keen interest in the person who inherited his number.
"It's a really big deal to me," Binns told me. "At first, I was a little bit selfish and didn't want anybody to wear it. But if somebody was going to wear it, I wanted it to be somebody good who plays the game hard."
"I didn't know what number I wanted," said Chisum. "I knew I didn't want #14, my high school number, so I asked coach. He said, 'I have the perfect number for you,' and he gave me #80. When I first started wearing it, all of the older guys said, 'You've got big shoes to fill,' and started giving me a hard time."
They're not ribbing him anymore, and since Binns is still in Cincinnati, he's become a mentor for the Bearcat freshman.
"The first time that I got to talk to him was the big game against N.C. State," said Chisum. "I told him that I had some big shoes to fill and he kind of laughed and said, 'No, you got it. And if I can, I'll come over here and work out with you.' He really wants me to wear that #80 proudly. He gives me tips and I try to apply that to my game when I'm on the field. It's really helped me."
"He's a really nice kid," said Binns. "He's always smiling and seems like a really fun person to be around. Plus he wants to learn - I like that about him. I've told him, 'Just go out there and catch the ball - that's what earns you trust from your quarterback.' That also gets you more playing time and a lot more balls thrown your way."
Binns is not the only NFL receiver that Chisum has ties to. In his senior year at Sandy Creek, Alex caught 69 passes for 1,426 yards and 11 touchdowns, breaking three school records held by Detroit Lions star Calvin "Megatron" Johnson.
"I actually broke his record the night he came back to have his jersey retired at halftime," said Chisum. "I got to joke around with him and he said that he wouldn't have wanted anybody else to break it. Hopefully, I can follow in his footsteps and be half as good as he is."
Calvin Johnson attended Georgia Tech and the Yellow Jackets tried to sign Chisum too.
"I got an offer from Georgia Tech the night before signing day, and the University of Georgia wanted me as well to play safety, but I wanted to be a wide receiver," said Chisum. "I wasn't one of those Georgia kids who wanted to stay in the state - I wanted to get out and distance wasn't a problem for me. This staff started recruiting me when I was a sophomore. I came up here several times and fell in love with the coaches and knew I had a chance to play early. Coach Jones kept his word and here I am now."
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