It looked like Trevone Boykin should not have thrown the ball.
One Ole Miss defender was behind Kolby Listenbee, another was right in front of him, essentially double-teaming the TCU receiver early in the second half of the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.
It didn’t matter as Listenbee ran past one defender than outjumped and outfought the other for the ball with a leaping 35-yard touchdown catch to increase TCU’s lead as the Horned Frogs ran away for a 42-3 win.
Speed. Athleticism. Ball skills. Competitiveness.
All the elements that made Listenbee’s play one of the top catches of the bowl season are the same skills that will put fear in the hearts of Big 12 defenders this fall. He finished the 2014 season with 41 receptions for 753 yards and four touchdowns and could be ready for even bigger things during his final season in Fort Worth, Texas.
After entering the year with three career catches, Listenbee’s junior season was a breakout year for the Arlington, Texas, native. He always has had the physical gifts, but it was his time on TCU’s track team after his sophomore season that set up his breakout campaign.
“After my sophomore season, I was at my low,” he said. “I just thought things weren’t going to go right for me. I got to track season and it gave me more confidence, got me to start believing in myself. I started gaining confidence, believing in my speed, believing in myself.”
Listenbee has plenty of reasons to believe in that blazing speed. He recorded times of 10.04 seconds in the 100 meters and 20.6 seconds in the 200 meters during the spring cementing his reputation as one of the nation’s fastest collegians.
“When you go out, race and see that you can beat people, you start to believe in what you can do,” Listenbee said.
The key was transferring that speed onto the football field, which he struggled to do during his first two seasons. A former high school quarterback, learning to run routes and catch the ball were a challenge.
“I knew my skills were there but track showed me I have speed, I just need to build from there,” he said. “[Just] work on my hands and start thinking positive so I can get on the field.”
For much of his first two seasons at TCU he admits he didn’t know what he was doing at receiver after the position change. And it didn’t help matters that he went from being a stellar high school quarterback to lining up against future NFL cornerbacks on a daily basis in practice.
“I was intimidated,” Listenbee said. “I came from quarterback, I was used to dropping back and throwing the ball then I’m going against cornerbacks like Jason Verrett and Kevin White every day. It was a big shock.”
The shock eventually wore off and the confidence eventually came, with the help of his track success. As Listenbee began to get more comfortable with the ins and outs of playing receiver, TCU’s new Air-Raid style offense arrived, just in time for him to start showing off his improved skills.
“It helps me showcase what I have, which is my speed,” Listenbee said of the offense. “But I had to realize I had to make routine plays to get on the field and do the little things that make a team function.”
Once he started doing that, all of the ingredients were in place for an explosive junior season.
The result was Listenbee separating himself as one of the conference’s top deep threats with 12 receptions of 30 yards or more in 2014. Only Baylor’s Corey Coleman (13) had more. And that number could rise in 2015 with a confident and comfortable Listenbee entering a second season in a offense that can highlight his talents.
“My first two years I had some opportunities but I didn’t take advantage of them,” Listenbee said. “I just had to believe in myself, go out there and do it. Not just talk about it.”