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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 26, Digital 6

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Page 41 of 110

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 26, ISSUE 6 40 "So I think he's recognized what he wasn't good at and instead of being shameful of that, you just go to work on it. His ultimate lows, there was a little bit of a false sense of security. But there also was a hidden lack of confidence and not knowing how to work to improve, which led to a lack of leadership. He wasn't vocal, all those things. It kind of killed him from inside-out." Parker just may have come into Yancey's life at the per- fect time. Yancey was raw from that disappointing season and bought into Parker's characterization of his seemingly solid freshman season as "fool's gold," understanding he racked up statistics in a season in which Purdue won only one game and was blown out in most, meaning he often was lined up against second- and third-stringers. Parker stressed, too, that Yancey needed to get his body right. Simply, Parker said Yancey was too slow. Cutting weight was the first part of the solution, and then building his body back up the right way was key, too, to get faster. Those directives happened to coincide with what turned into another key moment in Yancey's transformation: Phil- lips' arrival as Yancey's roommate. Despite Phillips taking Yancey's snaps late in the year, the two were close, having a natural connection being Georgia boys. Phillips was over at Yancey's place a lot during the sea- son, and when Yancey realized he'd have an open room, he asked Phillips to take it. And that put Yancey in the immedi- ate presence of one of the team's most dedicated workers, a player known to scour the Internet for creative workouts and one who never wastes a rep. It was the exact model Yancey needed. "How he works is just … it's just something he has. It was something I had to learn how to do, but he already had it as soon as he arrived (on campus)," Yancey said of Phil- lips, who is one year younger. "Living with him, it was like I had to do it. I couldn't just let him go work out while I stayed in the house. So we'd get up that spring every day at 6 a.m., go catch. We would work out, throw in the af- ternoon. We were just doing everything we could to make sure that I was confident and to keep him on the uprise." Soon, teammates were talking about spotting Yancey doing push-ups in a sweatshirt in the July heat. Soon, they were noticing how he'd run extra, when no one was supposed to be watching. Soon, they were whispering about how he was cutting weight and his 40 time. Soon, they were wondering, 'Could this be Yancey real- ized?' The answer came quickly. AN EXPECTATION Buoyed by that offseason of real work, Yancey entered last season only with the expectation of wanting to be a player his teammates could rely on, not necessarily focus- ing on being a legitimate No. 1 receiver. He'd learned to cultivate a humble attitude. And in Week 1, he started to work to prove his worth — with production, grabbing five catches for 78 yards. But he kept proving it with more than production. He played through a nagging shoulder injury. He started actu- ally blocking people on run plays instead of just watching. He cared about the team instead of himself. And, perhaps the truest measure of a player on the rise, he started to be driven by the plays he didn't make. After a career day at Iowa with nine catches for 117 yards, all he was talking about were back-to-back drops in the fourth quarter. After totaling 68 yards, including a highlight-reel 35-yarder in which he went over top of the DB to snatch a pass, at Michigan State, he kept flashing back to a near- miss in the end zone earlier in the game. He ended the season with 48 catches, 700 yards and five TDs — good numbers, especially in a bounce-back-type season. But Yancey called it only "all right." "Coming from my sophomore year to my junior year, peo- ple said it was a good season. But coming off my sophomore year, I knew that I was going to come back and have a good year. But I just didn't know how big it was going to be. It wasn't as big as I wanted it to be, but it was a push in the right direction," Yancey said. Perspective. Truth. Realism. It's who Yancey has become, transformed by struggle, challenged by failure, revolutionized by toil. "His goals and his dreams are bigger," quarterback David Blough said. "You see that when we're upset when we come up short of 1,000 yards his junior year or he's upset when he's not scoring a touchdown a game or a touchdown-and- a-half a game if your goal is 15. When you know there's po- tential to be up here and you've seen him just keep climbing toward it, you're like, 'Wow.' We were talking about, around

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