It seems silly in the wake of his four-touchdown supernova on Saturday, but once upon a time, Jehu Chesson had a touchdown problem.
As a redshirt freshman, the Michigan wide receiver caught a 33-yard touchdown on the first collegiate catch of his career against Akron. At the time, it was hard to envision it as anything but an auspicious start to a career destined to be spent crossing the goal line.
Then, the scores dried up. As the Brady Hoke era hiccuped, then nosedived, Chesson's numbers also took a hit. Entering this season, the Wolverines' first under new head coach Jim Harbaugh, Chesson still had yet to find the end zone for a second time.
Now, after a double-overtime win over plucky Indiana, U-M is 8-2, and Chesson has scored seven touchdowns over his past three games and made it look easy.
"Jehu came to play," Harbaugh said after the game. "I really feel like Jehu -- I told Jehu this week during practice -- he's got everything it takes to be a great pro player. The only thing I think he was missing was tracking the deep ball. Today -- boom! -- he does it."
Consider: 10 receptions, 208 yards, four scores -- all three career highs. And the Wolverines needed all of that and a little more to avoid losing to the Hoosiers for the first time since 1987. Chesson's four receiving touchdowns, tying a program record by Derrick Alexander that is older than Chesson, means more when you consider the Wolverines' history. Desmond Howard never did that; neither did Braylon Edwards or Mario Manningham.
It was the biggest Big Ten receiving performance in more than a decade.
Jehu Chesson's parents left his native Liberia when he was 2 years old. After a brief stop in the Ivory Coast, the Chesson family settled in St. Louis, Missouri, where Jehu Jr. grew into a freak athlete.
At Ladue Horton Watkins High School, where he caught 53 passes in each of his last two high school seasons, Chesson also became one of Missouri's best and fastest track stars (alongside another fleet Missouri prep star, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott).
"I would say track is harder [than football]," Chesson told a reporter as he prepared for his first fall camp in Ann Arbor. "The workouts are harder, but if my Michigan coach heard that he would probably want to make my workout much harder."
He graded out as a high three-star recruit by ESPN and garnered offers from three of the Power 5 conferences. But he took polite exceptions to ESPN's assessment about his speed, which suggested he wasn't "a great speed guy."
"I've seen those questions about my speed," Chesson told Ann Arbor.com. "I really don’t know what to say about those people other than, 'Just watch me.' Tape doesn’t lie."
(Watch his 96-yard opening kickoff return touchdown against Northwestern earlier this year, and judge for yourself.)
Harbaugh hasn't been shy about moving Chesson around the field this season. Against UNLV on Sept. 9, he rushed once for a 36-yard touchdown. Against Maryland, he did it again, this time from 66 yards out.
"You watch him run; you watch him catch; you watch him block; cover kicks; the way he plays in all phases and now the deep ball," Harbaugh said. "That's the final piece that he's acquiring now."
On the surface, Chesson's fourth, final and most importantly game-tying touchdown on Saturday bailed out the Wolverines by giving them the chance to outlast the Hoosiers. But that narrative is a bit facile. Really, the play was the embodiment of the lesson Harbaugh instilled in his team after a thrilling, three-point Halloween win over Minnesota.
"[After the game, Harbaugh] told us, 'Now we've done it. We know we can do it again,'" Chesson told MGoBlue.com the day after U-M reclaimed the Little Brown Jug. "He talked about sticking together as a team, and that nothing was going to be given to us. We understand that. But, at the same time, if we don't put ourselves in position to have success, we won't be able to receive it."
Two weeks later, Chesson put those words into action in Bloomington, upping his career touchdown total to 11 in the process.
Hard to believe he was ever stuck at one.