STILLWATER — Oklahoma State receiver Jhajuan Seales is used to being overlooked.
He played on the B team his freshman and sophomore years at Memorial High School in Port Arthur, Texas.
As a senior, most Division I schools ignored him despite eye-popping stats and all the right physical tools.
He spent his first year at OSU redshirting and the next season in the shadow of Josh Stewart and Tracy Moore despite a solid 39 receptions for 571 yards.
This spring, that’s changing.
As one of OSU’s most talked about players, Seales will likely enter 2014 as the Cowboys’ top outside receiver in a pass-heavy offense.
After years of people overlooking him, it’s time for Seales to get used to the spotlight.
“It’s like a dream,” Seales said. “Not recruited really, so I had to get here, showcase what I had, keep grinding and go play.”
For Seales, it’s been a ride fueled with determination.
Memorial High coach Kenny Harrison said Seales showed potential as an underclassman, but his skills weren’t developed enough to stand out on a team Harrison said had 16 players D-I players Seales’ junior year.
“He came up through the ranks earning his stripes,” Harrison said. “It wasn’t just given to him. Being on the second team, some kids would take that as a slap in the face, but he took that as motivation and he worked extremely hard.”
By his junior year, Seales was the No. 3 receiver on the varsity squad. One year later, Seales was Memorial’s go-to target, reeling in 54 catches for 1,207 yards and 13 touchdowns.
At that point, Seales proved he was worthy of looks from schools as a two-star recruit. But it didn’t come easily.
“That whole process at first of just calling, calling around and sending tapes off and recruiting was real slow for him, and I don’t really understand why,” Harrison said. “When you become a senior if you haven’t drawn any interest at that time you tend to kind of fly under the radar, especially now with guys being recruited at such a young age.”
Schools weren’t coming after Seales, but with the help of Memorial coaches, he was going after them.
Seales said he sent off countless letters and tapes to colleges across the country. It wasn’t until Harrison directly told former OSU offensive coordinator Todd Monken about Seales that OSU took interest.
Seales committed to Houston, the only other D-I program to seriously look at him, but when OSU outside receivers coach Kasey Dunn went to Port Arthur in late January and offered Seales on the spot, Seales said he quickly switched his loyalty.
“I had no idea he was going to offer me, so when he came down and offered, I happily accepted,” Seales said.
In Harrison’s words, the rest is history.
Seales made an impression with his 6-foot-2 build, 4.4 40-yard dash time and reliable hands. This season, opposing teams won’t be overlooking OSU’s No. 81 on the outside, regardless of whether Seales sheds his quiet demeanor and warms up to being the man.
“He’s the type of kid that doesn’t want to draw a lot of attention,” Harrison said. “He’s just a real, real, real quiet kid. He barely talked to me, but especially his junior year, he should have told me to throw him the ball a little more.”
Seales isn’t one to publicly talk about himself, but teammates have no problem doing the speaking for a wideout who could be next in a growing dynasty of star receivers at OSU.
“He won’t tell you that, he’ll act all shy, but as far as what he did last year and what he’s capable of, he can take over and be the guy,” fellow receiver Austin Hays said.
After making a few highlight grabs last season and emerging as a leader this spring, Seales has a chance to be one of the conferences’ best wideouts.
“He’s got great speed, great hands,” receiver Blake Webb said. “He’s a strong, physical guy and when the ball is in the air, it’s his. One thing I’ve seen this spring is that when the ball is in the air, Jhajuan goes and gets it.”
There’s no doubting Seales will have the attention of Big 12 defenses. And even back in Port Arthur, his name won’t be going away anytime soon.
“We use that example all the time for kids who play on our second freshman team and our second sophomore team,” Harrison said. “Jhajuan came through the ranks, and look where he is today.”
COWBOYS RECEIVING CORPS FASTER THAN EVER
Jhajuan Seales will be OSU’s No. 1 outside receiver. Although also playing running back, junior college transfer Tyreek Hill figures to see plenty of action in the slot.
After that, only one other thing is for sure: Oklahoma State is loaded with options at receiver. What players end up getting major roles is still being determined, but it’s not for lack of talent.
“It’s awesome,” sophomore wideout Blake Webb said. “Because we go so fast and one guy gets tired, another steps in and it’s not like we lose a step. One thing I know, we have great speed. This is as fast as we’ll ever be as a unit.”
Hill’s addition alone gives the Cowboys more speed at receiver, but so will redshirt freshman Ra’Shaad Samples and Webb and Austin Hays returning from injury.
Marcell Ateman, David Glidden and Brandon Sheperd add to depth at the position, and sophomore C.J. Curry has emerged this spring.
If there’s a glaring problem in the deep corps, it’s youth. Seales is the only returning starter, and Sheperd and Glidden — both juniors — are the only upperclassmen with experience at OSU.
With that youth comes a plethora of promise, which is why offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said he’s most impressed with how his receivers have grown in the weightroom and as leaders.
“Hats off to coach (Rob) Glass and the strength program,” Yurcich said. “Those guys bodies, they’ve really improved themselves there, and I think more important is their maturity level and their leadership qualities.”