AMES — As media day unfolded this month, Iowa State sophomore wide receiver Jarvis West crowded around teammates in the Jack Trice Stadium stands, not writers and TV reporters posing questions on the field.
A reluctant speaker, West isn’t inclined to flights of fancy or even mild self-promotion.
“Playing my role, even if it’s a little role, I’ll just do my job,” said West, who may be the Cyclones’ shortest receiver at 5-foot-7 but remains long on talent and play-making potential. “It doesn’t even have to be that big of an impact on anything. I just want to do my job to the best of my ability.”
That’s not to say West’s content with being another face in the crowd.
He caught 25 balls for 141 yards last season — yielding a modest 5.6-yards-per-reception average. He still seeks his first touchdown catch, but showed flashes of big-play ability, particularly in the return game.
“He makes things happen,” said ISU’s first-year offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham, who previously coached wide receivers and special teams. “And that’s one of the things we’ve got to do a good job of as an offense, that’s getting the ball in his hands. That gives him opportunity. And that doesn’t mean throwing him a post all the time. That might mean running a screen with him. That might mean bringing him in the backfield on a motion type of deal and handing it to him. He’s very, very quick and can make you miss in space.”
West is one of a handful of Cyclone receivers who showcase those elusive attributes.
Top returner Josh Lenz (39 catches, 510 yards, two touchdowns) enjoyed a healthy off-season after an injury-plagued junior campaign. He’s emerged as the de facto leader for a group that ranked 73rd nationally in receiving yards at 212.3 per game.
“We’re really tight,” Lenz said of the receiving corps, which includes senior Aaron Horne, junior Albert Gary and red-shirt freshman Quenton Bundrage. “We get the job done. We’ve got a lot of talented guys who make plays and we just like to have fun out there.”
Even West, despite his tendency toward not showing it.
“My deal with Jarvis is, I always tell him he needs to smile,” said ISU wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator Todd Sturdy. “Then he’ll smile right away and we’re all good. He is pretty quiet. Not a man of a lot of words, but he’s got a great personality. ... I’d take 100 of him.”
West’s simply not an open book.
Heart does not meet sleeve, but it beats vigorously.
“I’m not really that outspoken person,” he said. “I’m kind of stuck in the shadows.”
For now, anyway.“Don’t let Jarvis fool you,” Lenz said with a smile. “He talks. He likes to have a good time when we’re out there. When he first got here, he was a quiet guy, but that’s what I love him for. That’s my little brother.”