Southern offensive coordinator Chennis Berry began shouting before the play even finished.
The play was a surprise to most, even, somewhat, Southern’s play caller, given his spontaneous reaction.
In normal field goal position, true freshman wide receiver Kendall Catalon, who was Southern’s field goal placeholder on this play, completed one of the school’s trickiest plays of the season to date — a 4-yard, fake field goal run for his first career rushing touchdown on his first career attempt.
“Great play call!” Berry blurted from the stadium’s coaches press box in Southern's 35-17 win at Jackson State on Oct. 21.
Unlike his first collegiate rushing touchdown, Catalon’s success this season is far from surprising to Southern. As one of Southern’s three freshman receivers all listed as shorter than 5-foot-9, Catalon’s blooming transition to become a bona fide threat — in a new offensive position — was made known months ago.
The Jaguars saw his inevitable emergence before the season even started.
“In camp, he made himself known,” said senior quarterback Austin Howard, Southern’s all-time leading passer. “He's a quiet guy, but his work ethic and him just catching the ball, I was like, man, he's going to be something special.
"Since camp, he really blossomed into what he is now and he's still working hard. He's not complacent, and that's a good thing to see."
Catalon, a former quarterback at Mansfield Legacy High School in Texas, reeled in six catches for a career-high 175 yards in Southern’s 37-31 win against Prairie View on Saturday, shining as bright as the 180-pounder, utility speedster has all season.
Southern coach Dawson Odums says Catalon — Mansfield's former quarterback, now a shifty wideout with deep threat potential in Baton Rouge — was a “great get” for the Jaguars in Texas.
Berry, who dials up plays for Catalon during his freshman season, noted the freshman’s focus in the recruiting process, which was enhanced when Catalon chose to spend time in the receiver’s room during fall camp instead of doing, well, something else.
“I saw his initiative, and I'm big on initiative,” Berry said. “He was in there trying to learn. I knew it was just a matter of time before things start to slow down for him. Now, he's out there going full speed and making plays. We're excited about Kendall Catalon.”
“I guess we can recruit,” Odums quipped after Saturday’s win.
Catalon didn’t log a reception until Southern’s sixth game this season, when he snagged five catches for 50 yards. On 16 catches this season, Catalon has 266 yards receiving, most of which from Saturday’s win.
With two games remaining in the regular season, Catalon's roaring forward at full speed, Berry said.
“I knew he was special,” said Chris Melson, Catalon’s high school coach at Mansfield. “He’s just such a hard worker and an intelligent player. And then he’s just got unbelievable athletic ability when it comes to catching the ball and making people miss. It’s like everybody else is invisible.”
With former quarterback instincts, not much needed to be taught to Catalon as to how to be a wide receiver.
Most of it, unsurprisingly, came naturally.
“He's very instinctive,” Berry said. “He won a lot of games as a starting quarterback, and when you're a quarterback you need to know the entire picture. He understands concepts, where he fits and things of that nature.
“The passing game is about timing and spacing. He does a good job and knows where he fits.”