CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The backflip is the first thing that catches your eye when you research Florida Atlantic University wide receiver Jenson Stoshak.
A video of Stoshak making three one-handed catches while doing backflips was so impressive that it went viral after he posted it on Twitter last May.
But the backflip isn’t why the Carolina Panthers signed the undrafted rookie last week. His ability to make plays, on offense and special teams, got him a shot.
A good recommendation from FAU wide receivers coach Dan Shula, the nephew of Carolina offensive coordinator Mike Shula, didn’t hurt.
“I don’t stand on the table for too many guys, but I did call [Mike] a while back and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got this guy I’d love for you to take a look at and hopefully it works out.' " Shula said.
“I don’t think [the backflip was a factor]. There’s a lot of guys that do stuff like that but can’t make plays. ... I doubt that was on the Panthers’ evaluation form."
Stoshak (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) got the idea for the backflip catch after seeing somebody else do a variation of it on social media. Since he could do a backflip and has good hands, he figured it would be easy.
It took a while to perfect.
“I lost count after about 15 tries," Stoshak said
Stoshak hasn’t attempted the move since.
“My coaches saw it and weren’t real thrilled about it," he said with a laugh. “They said leave the flipping for the cheerleaders."
Shula actually was impressed, giving the move a 10 on a scale of 1-to-10.
“I wasn’t super surprised because I knew he was an extremely athletic kid," Shula said. “He’s always challenging himself with things like that. He never backed down from a challenge in practice or going against the best corners."
Making the Carolina roster will be perhaps Stoshak’s biggest challenge. The Panthers are so comfortable with the group of Kelvin Benjamin, Ted Ginn Jr., Devin Funchess, Philly Brown, Stephen Hill and Kevin Norwood that they didn’t re-sign veteran Jerricho Cotchery.
Stoshak’s best chance to make the roster might be to beat out Brenton Bersin, who eventually made the team after being signed as an undrafted rookie out of Wofford in 2012.
Stoshak is quite familiar with Bersin’s story. He almost followed Bersin’s path out of high school and went to Wofford, where the Panthers hold training camp. But the Terriers had to pull back their scholarship offer after two other receivers committed while Stoshak mulled his options after his senior season at University Christian High in Jacksonville, Fla.
“They had only a certain amount of offers for receivers," Stoshak said. “One day Florida AU called me. They said, ‘Hey, we have a whole new coaching staff. We really like you. We want you to come down and look at the place.’
“I came down and fell in love with the place. So I decided to walk on and earn my spot."
Stoshak was offered a scholarship after his first semester. Now he’s basically in the same situation of walking on again.
“I believe it gives me an edge," said Stoshak, who was born 90 minutes south of Charlotte in Columbia, South Carolina. “I know the ropes."
Stoshak was FAU’s go-to receiver last season, catching 56 passes for 816 yards and two touchdowns. He finished his college career with 131 catches for 1,881 yards and six touchdowns.
“Every time we needed a big play this season we put him in a position to make it," Shula said.
Stoshak also was FAU’s best special-teams player. He admitted that might be his best spot to make the Carolina roster.
“I’ll go in and block, tackle," Stoshak said. “I’ll go in and catch passes. Whatever they want me to do I’ll do."
But ultimately Stoshak wants to play receiver. He likens his game to that of Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson in that he has good hands and runs good routes.
He’s more quick than he is fast. And he’s not afraid to make the tough catch over the middle.
“He’s tough," said Shula, noting Stoshak led the team in contested catches. “He has all the intangibles you’d want in a kid."
Stoshak also is acrobatic, as he shows on the video. He’s not ready to put himself on the same level as New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., in terms of one-handed catches, but he’s become pretty adept at it.
He and his receivers always set aside time on Wednesdays to practice them.
“It made the game fun," Stoshak said. “That’s what football is all about."
What Stoshak liked about the 2015 Panthers that won the NFC Championship was they had fun. A part of that was quarterback Cam Newton making one-handed catches at the start of every practice.
Stoshak took notice.
Getting to catch passes from the NFL MVP is something Stoshak can’t wait to do. If Newton were to ask him to try the backflip catch, he might have to dust off the move.
“I would say absolutely," Stoshak said.
But Stoshak knows backflip catches ultimately won’t get him on the 53-man roster.
“That was just something to have fun with," he said. “It comes down to what you do on the field and playing the game."