Hunter Dale once had to follow Malachi Dupre during a vertical leaping exercise.
He’ll never forget that day at a Tulane football camp.
Dupre, now a rising freshman receiver at LSU, swatted every bracket on the testing pole. His biceps hit the lower portion of the brackets, and his fingers touched the top rung.
The force toppled the entire pole, which fell to the ground.
Camp officials picked up the pole, repositioned it, adjusted the brackets and looked at Dale.
“I didn’t know what to do,” said Dale, then a senior safety at John Curtis and Dupre’s teammate at the New Orleans-based school.
He jumped, of course. Dale will keep the results to himself.
The point: Dupre can jump awfully high.
LSU fans got their first real glimpse of the spectacle-wearing wideout Saturday in the loss against Mississippi State — at least those 10,000 or so fans who stuck around to the end.
Dupre had four catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns. He became the first true freshman to have that many receiving yards with at least two scores in a single game.
As a true freshman, Dupre is not allowed to speak with reporters.
“He made a tremendous splash,” fellow receiver Travin Dural said.
The 6-foot-3, 187-pounder broke from his freshman slumber, rebounding from an injury-plagued August with an impressive outing.
Dupre finally figures to be fully healthy and in the mix at receiver as No. 17 LSU (3-1) hosts New Mexico State (2-2) on Saturday (6:30 p.m., SEC Network).
It only took a month for this highly touted athlete to factor into a significant part of the game plan. That seems like an eternity for a former five-star prospect ranked in the top three at his position last recruiting season.
Injuries stymied Dupre early this season. He missed much of preseason camp and didn’t make the trip to the season opening game against Wisconsin in Houston.
Dupre was sidelined by a lingering hamstring injury from high school and a tweaked ankle, Dural said. He played insignificant roles in the next two games — big wins over Sam Houston State and Louisiana-Monroe — by entering after the game had been decided.
Fans were getting antsy. Where was the star receiver who was expected to help replace the departed duo of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry?
During coach Les Miles’ radio show last week, a frustrated caller began by saying, “Am I missing something? Malachi Dupre only comes in in the fourth quarter!”
Miles flatly said, “Nope, you got it.”
“I’d have been depressed if I were him,” Dural said. “He stayed focused.”
Dupre was fully healthy for the first time last week, Dural said. It’s no wonder he’s slowly moved up LSU’s depth chart at receiver. He headed into the Sam Houston State game in the fourth spot. He’s now No. 2 at the “X” receiver position behind fellow freshman Trey Quinn, after leapfrogging AveryPeterson and QuantaviusLeslie.
With his breakout game against Mississippi State, Dupre has surged into second place in receiving yards (143) and touchdowns (three) and is third on the team with six catches.
All three of his touchdowns have come from freshman quarterback Brandon Harris. Two of the three were highlight reel grabs where Dupre showed off his talked-about length.
Against Sam Houston State, Harris’ pass appeared just outside of his reach. But Dupre made a stunning lunge at the ball while staying on his feet. The ball his hit his fingertips, and he reeled it in.
Against Mississippi State, Harris threw a planned jump ball to Dupre. He out-jumped the cornerback by several inches to catch the pass.
“I watched it a good bit. I’d say about 10 times,” Dural said.
Said cornerback Tre’Davious White: “Any time a guy has a 40-inch vertical, it’s tough to go at him on vertical routes.”
Dupre’s vertical jump is actually 43 inches.
How does that stack up? At the NBA combine in Chicago this past year, the best mark was 43.50 inches.
Former Memphis basketball player D.J. Stephens had a vertical leap of 46 inches last year, the highest ever recorded by the NBA.
Dupre can easily dunk a basketball.
“He’d do that all of the time,” Dale said.
Dale used to work out with Dupre in the weight room at John Curtis. He stuck out there, too.
“When he’d squad,” Dale said, “his butt touches his heels.”