It has become a familiar refrain for smaller players to re-tell anecdotes about bigger schools passing them over.
“If only you were a few inches taller. …” Generally, that is how the rejection goes. But in lots of cases, the small guys end up being the bigger ones. Take Toledo all-purpose player Eric Page.
He is 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds. He knew he did not have the ideal size, but Page still was disappointed when only MAC schools showed up to recruit him out of high school in Toledo. Ultimately, he decided to stay right at home, 5 minutes from where he grew up.
Turned out to be a great decision. Page won MAC Special Teams Player of the Year Honors and made the first team as a kickoff returner and receiver. He also was named an All-American by four different publications.
“It feels great coming from not as big a school. To be recognized is a real honor,” Page said. “I was pretty surprised. We made big strides as a team this year, and it proves we had a good year, and that’s how I got recognized.”
Page ranks fourth in the nation in kickoff returns (31.8 avg.) and is the only FBS player with three kickoff returns for touchdowns this season. As a receiver, Page is tied for fifth in the nation with 94 receptions, and ranks 18th in the country with 1,081 receiving yards.
Of course, none of this should come as a shock after last season, when he led all freshmen in the nation with 82 receptions and 1,159 receiving yards. But coach Tim Beckman was a little concerned about how he would handle this season without Stephen Williams, who had 1,065 yards receiving last season.
“He has seen doubles, but we’re proud of how he’s taken his game to a different level,” Beckman said. “He has great football intelligence, he understands how to utilize his talents. He comes out to work and he doesn’t think he’s close to how good he thinks he can be. That’s why he continues to try to improve his game.”
Page most definitely is a player to watch headed into the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl on Sunday night against FIU. He expects about 167 friends and family to be in attendance, a close enough drive from Toledo.
As for what makes him so good, Page has a few reasons: good teammates helping him on kick returns, film study and a good overall football IQ.
“I’m not the fastest guy, but on kickoffs, the key there is following your blocks, having good vision and explode through the holes,” he said. “As a receiver, if you know how the defense is going to work, then you can catch the ball like a pro.”
He already seems to have mastered both in two short seasons.