Editor's Note: In the days leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft, we will be profiling the TCU football graduates who hope to hear their name called this weekend. Next up: one of the fastest players in college football, who could be a game breaker at the next level.
No matter where Kolby Listenbee ends up going, seeing him drafted will be particularly special for me.
During my senior year at TCU (the 2014 season), I collected a bunch of football trading cards with a picture of a player at the front and the 2014 season schedule at the back. The cards were pretty -- each had a shiny silver border around the edges and the 2014 slogan "Amp It Up" written in reflective, metallic lettering. I made it a mission to get all of them signed somehow.
That semester, I happened to have a communications class with Kolby, which he eventually dropped, but we still kept in touch occasionally via social media. Kolby didn't have a trading card yet, as he wasn't the biggest name on the team at the time, but we joked that he could sign my Kolby Listenbee card once it existed.
By November, I only had one signature -- BJ Catalon. Then my main man Jaden Oberkrom hit the game-winning field goal against West Virginia. I jokingly (and somewhat seriously) asked Kolby to get a signature for my Jaden Oberkrom card. Kolby said he'd not only get Jaden's signature but signatures from all the other players whose cards I had. Well how cool is that, I thought. So I handed Kolby my "collection."
Over the next several weeks, I made sure to consistently bug him about it. I must've become annoying at some point. We began to talk less, and since he dropped the class, I saw him less often. Nonetheless, it took some time before I discovered the whereabouts of my football cards.
But it was okay. Kolby had more important things to worry about.
We'll come back to that story later.
A self-proclaimed "freshman with no confidence," Listenbee's first two seasons at TCU were rather quiet. He played nine games in his first year, recording just one catch for the whole season. Sophomore year wasn't much different -- in seven games, he had just two receptions.
Things changed come junior year. Listenbee bloomed into a starting position and became one of the best receivers on the team, recording 41 receptions for 753 yards and four touchdowns. When Trevone Boykin sent the ball deep down the left sideline, you could guess who the target was -- Listenbee.
His 2014 Peach Bowl performance, in particular, was one for the highlight reel. In the first quarter, he channeled his former high school quarterback self and threw a 31-yard touchdown pass on a trick play. Later, he'd catch a tight 35-yard touchdown pass while double-teamed by Ole Miss defenders.
The following spring, Listenbee took his talents to the track team, posting his best 100-meter dash time at a wind-aided 10.03 seconds and helping the 4x100 relay team win the Big 12 Championship.
When football season came back around, Listenbee was dubbed "college football's fastest player" and poised to make an impact as a senior wide receiver. Sadly, his potential couldn't be reached as his playing time was cut short due to injury. He missed two games but still managed to finish with 30 catches for 597 yards, five touchdowns and a team-leading average of 19.9 yards per catch.
Despite the injury, Listenbee came out of TCU with legitimate draft potential. One thing was for sure -- his track experience was going to boost his resume. Speed became Listenbee's most touted trait, and he proved why at the NFL Combine.
Listenbee's 40-yard dash clocked in at 4.39 seconds, the second-best time among wide receivers and eighth-best time among all positions. He was a top performer in the broad jump as well.
All this...while still recovering from injury.
It goes to show that the team that picks Listenbee will get a gritty, fast and energetic receiver who can get open and make catches in tight windows. If he can prove he's more versatile than just being a deep threat, he has potential to be that third-round pick that winds up becoming a household name.
Many analysts consider Listenbee to be a mid-round draft pick, likely third round. Some have him going to teams like the Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns. He's also been seen wearing Tampa Bay Buccaneers gear, not that it necessarily means anything.
If there's any team in desperate need of wide receiver depth, it's the Houston Texans. But the Texans are highly likely to take a receiver in the first round -- some even say it's going to be Josh Doctson -- so the chances of the Texans grabbing Listenbee in a later round are slim. Either way, Listenbee may not be ready to start right out of college, so he's better off in a team that'll give him the chance to develop and polish his route tree.
Still, Listenbee has so much potential that a spot on an NFL team has got to be somewhere in the cards.
Ah yes, the cards. After TCU's 2014 regular season ended, finals week hit. I finished my last test, and with a grand hurrah, I headed home with no plans to return to campus until January. I hadn't gotten the cards back yet, but it wasn't a big deal. All I cared about was going home and enjoying the holidays.
Then I got a message from Kolby. He had my cards, all signed, and he wanted to give them back before everyone left for the holiday break.
Aww man, I thought. He remembered!
I thanked him and told him to just drop the cards off in my professor's office, and he agreed. When I came back that January, I picked up the cards and thumbed through all of them...Trevone Boykin, Paul Dawson, Jaden Oberkrom...they were all there, all marked with Sharpie ink. I took a picture of them and sent a "thank you" message to Kolby.
"Anytime!' he replied.
That was one of my fondest, if not the fondest memory I have of Kolby Listenbee -- more than any touchdown or trick play. He could've been "that" football player who would toss the cards away or forget about them, but he wasn't. It was a simple gesture, getting a few trading cards signed, but it meant a lot to me.
It's just funny to think that a guy I used to have class with might end up in the NFL. Certainly I have my biases on where I think he should go, but honestly, the team doesn't matter to me.
So long as he never changes.