Graham Zug's football journey, from lightly recruited high school player to Penn State walk-on to scholarship player to consistent contributor, has taken another step this spring.
Zug, a redshirt junior from Manheim Central, got the fourth-most snaps at wide receiver last season for Penn State, behind senior stars Derrick Williams, Jordan Norwood and Deon Butler.
He naturally figures to play even more this fall. Zug had four receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's Blue-White intrasquad game.
He also received the Red Worrell Award, given to the most-improved offensive player in spring practice.
At least as importantly, his body language and the way his teammates responded to him on the field Saturday suggest he's seen a bit differently now.
"I don't really think of it like that," Zug said. "I think all the receivers are trying to be leaders among themselves. It is different, though."
At least on paper, different is not better. It's hard to imagine this year's wideouts matching the production of Williams, Norwood and Butler, but Zug's already tired of hearing that.
"It sits there," he admitted. "I read it in the paper this morning, and I've read it in the past.
"People can compare us all they want. Jordan, Deon and Derrick were great receivers and they will be forever remembered here. As far as us being compared to them that's fine with us but we're three different individuals and we're here to try to do our best like those three did."
Just a few days after the Rose Bowl loss to USC in January, quarterback Daryll Clark and the returning wideouts starting working together, throwing and catching, developing rhythm and timing.
"Another good thing [Clark is] doing is he comes to us for help," Zug said in a teleconference last week.
"You need that bonding between receivers and the quarterback in every passing game to make sure we know we're on the same page."
Even without the outgoing guys, there are faster, more athletic receivers on Penn State's roster. Redshirt sophomores Derek Moye and Chaz Powell come to mind. Somehow, though, Zug gets open, and when the ball's in his area code he tends to catch it.
He won't be sneaking up on opponents as much now, though.
"I'm just as excited as last year," Zug said. "I'm excited this year because I think I will get more time, hopefully have a bigger impact and a bigger role, as well as the other receivers.
"I don't think it's too hard. You pick up on it pretty quickly. Last year helped and even the year before getting some time, just getting reps then practicing and focusing and studying the plays each day just really gets you prepared for it."
Mike Gross is assistant sports editor of the Sunday News. E-mail him at email@example.com.