Let's say you're a wide receiver for the University of South Florida football team. You're unsure how to execute a certain technique during practice. Your position coach, drawing on his experience, tries to explain. But first, he tells a story.
You know, when I used to catch passes from Peyton Manning, here's what we did.
Jerome Pathon, USF's first-year receivers coach, carries that kind of clout.
"He knows what it takes to get to that next level and as receivers that's all we want to do,'' Bulls junior receiver Sterling Griffin said. "We know he has already been there. We're going to do everything he asks us to do. It's great having him here.''
Pathon has inherited a position of new-found strength. USF will put its deep stable of talented receivers on display tonight during the Green and Gold Bowl on-campus spring game at the Corbett Soccer Stadium.
USF's receivers were haunted by injuries and inexperience for the past two seasons. Now it's a fierce battle. The Bulls comfortably go two or three deep at the receiving positions, where the ultimate shakedown for playing time is anyone's guess.
"I've been a part of many different programs, played a little ball myself, and I'm so impressed by the work ethic of our guys,'' said Pathon, 36. "It's nice to get back to the speed of the game. The speed and athleticism that is being exhibited, it's like a breath of fresh air.''
Pathon, a first-team All-American at the University of Washington and eight-year NFL veteran, spent three years on the University of San Diego's staff. When USF receivers coach Phil McGeoghan joined the Miami Dolphins as assistant receivers coach, he recommended Pathon, who he met in the NFL, to Bulls coach Skip Holtz.
Holtz was impressed.
Born in South Africa and raised in Canada, Pathon went from walk-on to All-American at Washington, where he set school records for receptions (69) and receiving yards (1,245) as a senior. He was a second-round selection (the 32nd overall pick) of the Indianapolis Colts in 1998, when they led off the draft with Manning.
Mostly playing for the Colts and New Orleans Saints, Pathon had 260 career catches for 3,350 yards and 15 touchdowns.
"You don't do any of that without some incredible determination, drive and work habits,'' Holtz said. "His path to get there (NFL) was as interesting to me as him actually being there.
"It's more than just sizzle. When he got on the board (during the interview process), he showed that he knows the trade. The techniques and fundamentals … he just knows the trade. There's sizzle to his background, but he has quite a bit of substance behind it as well.''
Pathon said he has been pleased by the veteran leadership of Griffin and Victor Marc, along with the potential of two rising sophomores, Andre Davis (Jefferson) and Ruben Gonzalez (Robinson). Sophomore Deonte Welch has drawn praise. There's also the tantalizing prospect of Chris Dunkley, a University of Florida transfer who could develop into a game-breaker.
"There are guys with lots of game experience and there's nothing that can substitute for that,'' Pathon said. "You can draw all the little drawings you want to on the board and what-not, but being in the game environment, executing plays and becoming a playmaker is essential.
"That's what they all want. And if my experiences can help them with that, if they gravitate to what I can tell them and help them better, that's the goal.''
Bulls quarterback B.J. Daniels has taken notice.
"He (Pathon) definitely has a lot to say,'' Daniels said. "He's really helping those guys a lot. We've got the depth to rotate guys in and out. They all do something well. It's my job to get them the ball. I think we're going to have a really, really good group.''