FORT WORTH, Texas -- A high-five, a glove, a photo, a hug, whatever. If TCU’s youngest fans want something from Horned Frogs receiver Josh Doctson, he can’t say no.
He knows what those moments mean. Ten years ago, Doctson was one of them.
He and his brother Jeremiah were proud members of the Bleacher Creatures club back then, just two of the hundreds of kids who ran onto the Amon G. Carter Stadium field each week before kickoff. For three or four years, the Doctson brothers made that dash and watched from the stands and dreamed.
"I can recall it vividly," Doctson said. "Getting on the field. The horn blowing. Sprinting as fast as we can to the other goal line. We looked forward to every Saturday. We were here every Saturday. I’m at a loss for words now when I see those kids running on the field or hanging over the railing after the game. I was in their shoes."
You better believe all those dashes crossed his mind last Saturday. He ran wild like 11-year-old Josh against Oklahoma State, sprinting untouched for 77- and 84-yard touchdowns on the first two receptions of a career-best day in No. 10 TCU’s 42-9 blowout of the Cowboys.
Doctson surpassed 100 yards for the first time in his TCU career. Then he went over 200. He finished with 225 -- just 1 yard shy of the best pass-catching performance in school history. After coming home in 2012, Doctson is doing things today his younger self never could have imagined.
"I texted my brother after the game and was just like, 'Wow, I don’t even know where that came from today,'" Doctson said. "My mother was in shock. It’s really unreal. I sit back and I don’t even know where all this came from."
This all started with Tracy Syler-Jones, an unemployed single mother of two who moved with her boys from Birmingham, Alabama, to Texas in 1999 despite no promise of a job. TCU took a chance on her -- as an assistant communications director -- when her family sorely needed a chance.
Doctson didn’t know just how much his mother had sacrificed and survived when he and Jeremiah were young. But he knew nobody worked harder. Tracy taught her sons to never be satisfied. Today she’s TCU’s vice chancellor of marketing and communications, and her sons’ constant inspiration.
"She’s the only reason I am where I’m at," Doctson said.
But Doctson didn’t start at TCU. He played his freshman season at Wyoming. His first TD? A 7-yard reception against, yep, TCU. He even beat former Horned Frogs cornerback Jason Verrett to make that play, one of his 35 catches as a true freshman. Dream come true, he thought at the time.
But by the end of his first semester, Doctson needed to get back home. His grandfather, who has since died, had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Living 750 miles away, knowing he couldn’t help, was too unbearable for Doctson.
"We were going through a lot as a family, myself especially," Doctson said. "I was really hard on myself and just a little bit distracted. That’s really what brought me back to Texas. Family was the No. 1 thing in my life. I couldn’t see myself spending four years apart from my brother and mom."
TCU took a chance on him, too. The 6-foot-4, 190-pounder has rewarded head coach Gary Patterson’s faith ever since.
"Josh is one of those guys that is very mature for his age," Patterson said. "Ever since he got here he’s run great routes, he’s blocked, he’s tenacious. Team is very important to him. He’s not going to be a guy who’s a true burner, but he has enough speed, he’s deceptive and he can go up and get the ball."
Oh yes he can. Against Minnesota this season, Doctson leaped so high for a one-handed touchdown catch, his right knee nearly brushed the poor defensive back's facemask. Thanks to this new high-flying offense, the Horned Frogs’ leading receiver already has more yards in six games than he put up in 11 games a year ago. The highlight reel got a bit longer Saturday.
Nobody told Doctson he was a yard short of the record until the final seconds of the win. He would be lying if he said he didn’t want one more catch. But days later, he still can’t believe what he did.
Knowing where he started, he says, makes all this -- the big plays, TCU's top-10 ranking, the opportunity this team has -- seem a little too unthinkable. The kid from the Bleacher Creatures still can’t believe he gets to play with the big boys now.
"I look at those plays now and it’s just like, 'Wow, I don’t even know who that is. That wasn’t me,'" Doctson said. "I’m just so happy to be out here and see where this team is heading and be a part of this. There’s an amazing vibe in the locker room, on campus, everywhere. I’m living in this moment right now."