Alshon Jeffery stays hungry, humble as NFL star rises

dcloninger@thestate.comMay 16, 2014 

Bears Browns Football

Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery catches a 45-yard touchdown pass against Cleveland on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, in Cleveland.

MARK DUNCAN — ASSOCIATED PRESS

Alshon Jeffery didn’t mind waiting his turn. It’s something he’s used to.

As he did at South Carolina, it’s a case of being patient, then showing everyone what they were missing – and proving so valuable that there will never again be a case of having to be patient.

“It took me probably about a year to process everything, because everything happens so fast,” Jeffery mused on Friday, as he attended the Black Expo Charity Golf Tournament at Cobblestone Park. “You go straight from training all the time to the Combine to being drafted to being on the team, still training. It took me about a year.

“They always say you never arrive, every year you have to go and prove something. So that’s what I have to do.”

Jeffery was an all-star recruit from Calhoun County High School in 2009, but didn’t start at USC until the seventh game of that season. He played in every game, but he knew he was going to have to bide his time until he proved himself.

It was a lengthy process, as Jeffery caught a mere five passes for 61 yards and a touchdown over his first six games. Then came the Kentucky game, where he didn’t start but found himself rising above helpless defensive backs for three touchdowns, part of seven catches for 138 yards.

Jeffery was cemented as a starter, and a star, from then on, all the way to the last catch of his magnificent career, when he hauled in a Hail Mary pass during the Capital One Bowl, came down and lunged across the goal line just before halftime. It’s why during an injury-marred first year in Chicago, where the speed, difficulty and simply getting used to the NFL held him to 24 catches in 10 games, Jeffery didn’t shrug his shoulders.

Same as in Columbia. Work hard, get better, show them what they were missing. Don’t give them a reason to sit you anymore.

“Toughest thing to get used to was the game slowing down, understanding the offense and being on the same page with my coaches and my teammates,” he said. “I always say, overall improvement in everything. Everybody knows I can catch the ball, but that’s how you’re supposed to make your money – running routes and catching balls.”

He definitely put himself in line for a future payday – a big one.

Jeffery exploded into one of the NFL’s most dynamic receivers last year, catching 89 balls for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns. He set the Bears’ single-game receiving record with 218 yards against New Orleans, then re-set it eight weeks later with 249 against Minnesota.

“He’s given our football team balance,” coach Marc Trestman said last year. “He’s given us a big-play threat. He’s not a flashy guy, you know, when he walks off the field. But on the field, he certainly flashes.”

On Friday, that was evident. Jeffery didn’t show up dripping bling, entourage in tow. He wore a short-sleeved shirt and jeans and was the same soft-spoken player he was with the Gamecocks.

It’s not difficult to stay hungry, he said. It’s what he’s always been, and what he always realized he needed to be.

“I’m from a small town,” he said. “Everyone back home is looking up to me. And I got a family that I got to provide for, so that’s how I stay hungry.”

Jeffery was glad to be back in warm(er) weather, crediting the frigid winds in Chicago as another reason for his long acclimation to the NFL. It was time to reunite with the family and show that money hasn’t changed him.

It hasn’t. There’s still time for everyone, especially brother Shamier Jeffery, going into his fourth year at USC.

“We don’t really talk about football too much,” Jeffery said. “But advice, he knows he has to work hard. Nothing’s going to be given to you – you have to work hard and take it.”

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