Pitt freshman wide receiver Shocky Jacques-Louis has a way of pushing through the rigors of training camp.
“I listen to gospel all the time to get me going throughout the morning,” he said. “That’s what keeps (alive) my drive to fight because I know He’s on my side.”
Asked to recite his favorite gospel passage, he didn’t hesitate:
“Ephesians 6:11. Put on the whole armor of God so ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil.”
That was some fast thinking by a young man who’s still 3½ months shy of his 19th birthday and had just finished practice. But he’s growing up quickly, having graduated early from Dunbar High School in Fort Myers, Fla., and enrolling at Pitt in January.
Now, after shaking off a high school injury that kept him out of spring drills, he’s competing for playing time at wide receiver where Pitt needs to replace starters Jester Weah and Quadree Henderson.
“I’ve just been doing what my mom showed me her whole life,” he said. “Working hard, grinding hard. It’s more than just me. It’s for my family. We’re trying to get out.”
One of eight siblings, including his twin brother Rocky (a linebacker at Florida International), Jacques-Louis hopes to set himself apart from the crowd. Coaches and teammates continually mention his name when asked about wide receivers making an impact, but it has been only a week, and coaches seek consistency over anything else.
Freshmen often hit a wall at some point in camp or during the season, but Jacques-Louis doesn’t fear it.
“If the wall comes, it comes,” he said, “but with His help, I’m going to break the wall down and keep pushing through.
He said his specialty is “taking the top off the defense.”
“I came in with high expectations,” he said. “I’m honored that people called my name out to the media. I don’t do everything for people to look at, but it’s been nice to know that somebody’s looking at you.”
Avonte Maddox spent four years proving to people that at 5-foot-9, he was not too short to play cornerback.
Now, he’s with the Philadelphia Eagles, but a freshman cornerback, Marquis Williams, is trying to take his place at Pitt.
“I’m repping his number (14),” said Williams, puffing out his chest on a 5-8, 160-pound frame. “That’s my man.”
Williams, who has drawn praise from coach Pat Narduzzi, said he spoke to Maddox before training camp.
“I was asking him how he plays so I can steal some stuff because he’s (only) a little bit taller than me. ‘What can I take from you to do the same things you were doing at the University of Pittsburgh?’
“He told me, ‘You have to come with a chip on your shoulder. You have to come with heart. Don’t come in thinking you’re too little. You can make plays on big receivers. You can make plays on anybody.’ ”
Avoid the thud
It might not seem like much, but redshirt freshman punter Kirk Christodoulou has trimmed about three-tenths of a second off the time it takes for him to catch the ball and boot it.
“This guy went from 1.45-1.55 (seconds). He’s a consistent 1.2, below 1.3 get-off,” Narduzzi said.
He’s also getting five-second hang times on punts that travel 50 yards, the coach said.
Christodoulou, who learned to kick while playing Australian Rules Football in Melbourne, is the first Pitt punter not named Ryan Winslow since Matt Yoklic in 2013. Winslow, now with the Chicago Bears, led the ACC last year with a 44.5-yard average, but two of his punts were blocked last year.
“We need to get rid of it,” Narduzzi said. “I hate to hear that double thud.”