ASHBURN, Virginia — The decision came easy: young Jahan Dotson enjoyed catching a ball much more than he did push-ups. His cousin threw Dotson’s soccer balls into the local park, forcing him to catch the balls from a dive. The dropped ball was equal to 10 push-ups.

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“I got fed up with it very quickly,” said Dotson, who was selected by the Washington Commanders in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. “So catching the ball is what I’ll be doing.”

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Even if it means pulling a pass like a basketball rebound, or reaching high to catch the ball with both hands, or reaching far inside for a shot. All this the recruit has demonstrated in training camp and during a brilliant career in college at the University of Pennsylvania.

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That’s why Dotson wasn’t so easily impressed watching and discussing some of his college highlights in the spring at the Washington Learning Center. Commanders loved Dotson for many reasons, including his skillful route and mature approach, but some of those Penn State catches revealed another reason he stood out. He played longer than his stated height of 5’11”.

“I don’t want to sound cocky, but I do this so often and practice it all the time because you never know when it will happen,” Dotson said.

The New Orleans Saints traded with Washington to select receiver Chris Olav 11th overall, with Dotson 16th coming fifth of six strikeouts selected in the first round. Although he is the shortest of the six, his arms (9.5 inches) are larger than two of the receivers selected above him, and his 36-inch vertical jump is only matched by Garrett Wilson (#10, New York Jets) among the first. the round receivers at the scouting mill are sizes that help explain why Dotson plays bigger than his size.

Five plays from his career in Pennsylvania help explain why commanders are thrilled with him.

Basic moments

September 18 vs. Auburn, 1st and 10th of Penn State 23: Dotson, lined up inside the numbers on the right, made a deep cross and blasted 20 yards downfield. A safe eight yards behind him poised to intercept a pass that seemed too high. Instead, Dotson jumped high and turned left to catch the ball 22 yards.

“The ball was a little over my head, so I had to do a acrobatic stunt and get it out,” Dotson said. “It’s hard to get an interception, so knowing I’m taking one off the defense and moving the sticks is definitely cool.”

Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz said, “He catches football as naturally as anyone I’ve been around.”

October 2 vs. Indiana, second goal of 8: Dotson lined up by numbers and sold the crossing route, only to end up in the back of the end zone. Another high pass resulted in another spin and a touchdown.

“It’s my attention to detail and focus,” Dotson said. “When the ball is in the air, I am completely focused on the ball and nothing else. I have tunnel vision and I feel like I can get down from this game. I love to catch the ball. I always carry a soccer ball with me.” I get on the Jugs car as often as possible.”

Dotson has yet to prove himself in the NFL. While Washington thought he was one of the most prepared players in the draft, others wondered if the commanders had picked him too high (Sportzshala’s Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Dotson 22nd overall and Scout’s Inc. . put it in 25th place).

But in practice, he showed that the work of his hands paid off.

“He has hands like [former Indianapolis Colts receiver] Reggie Wayne, said former NFL wide receiver Santana Moss, who provides analysis on the Commanders website. – Reggie could catch BB in the dark, it was that easy. This is how I see Jahan. What he does is very polished. … I attribute this to his grip radius and the presence of gauntlets. Look at his hands, it’s like a sucker. Carson throws the ball but you don’t hear it hit [Dotson’s] mittens.”

Oct. 23 vs. Illinois, 1st and 10th by Penn State 22: When passing on the right flank, three defenders converged on Dotson. One reached for the ball, but Dotson jumped up and stole it. After he and Jartavious Martin landed, they stared at each other and Dotson shook his head.

“He’s like, ‘I thought I had one,’ and I’m like, ‘No, sir,'” Dotson said.

Does he understand how unpleasant this situation is for the defender?

“Honestly, I don’t care,” he said.

In the first week of Washington’s training camp, Dotson caught a controversial 40-yard pass over Wentz’s shoulder. This impressed fellow receiver Terry McLaurin, who liked that Dotson kept the same track on the route. This allowed Wentz to hit him on the outside shoulder. Dotson also did not raise his hands until the last minute, preventing the defender from reacting quickly enough.

“I’m still working on that skill a bit,” McLaurin said. “You need to use such subtle tricks to keep [defenders] from receiving the ball with his hands. So it was really nice to see from a young guy.”

Nov. 27 vs. Michigan State, 1st and 10th out of 27 Spartans: The pitch was covered in snow and Dotson ran down the right touchline, jumping a foot from the boundary. When he catches the ball right inside the 3-yard line, he starts to fall out of bounds but pulls the ball over the scoring pylon.

“It was the craziest weather game I’ve ever played,” Dotson said. “It is difficult to stand on your feet, your hands are cold, the ball is difficult to catch. All this is distracting, you just need to keep the main thing in your head.

The main thing, for Dotson, is the details and the recipient’s plan. That’s why veteran Commanders quarterback Kendall Fuller called him “a pro from day one.”

In the spring, Dotson met Fuller for several days in a row in the same arrangement and with the same lighting. He beat him outside the first day. On the second, Fuller expected another outside cut. Dotson knew this, so he charged in for a wide open grab.

“To get the same look and feel and still have a counter is great,” Fuller said. “It’s a veterinary move.”

October 31, 2020, 1st & 10th, Ohio State 20 Yard Line: Dotson was pinned on the line, but the pass was passed to him at the 10-yard line. As a defender, Sean Wade, leaning back, Dotson reached high and grabbed the ball with his outstretched right hand and never stumbled as it ran into the end zone.

“In the previous play, I had a route to start and made a pretty cool catch at about 40 yards,” Dotson said. “I was dead tired and tried to get out of the game to get some water, but we were in a hurry. chance.”

During this off-season, Dotson trained with NFL wide receivers, including Chris Godwin and Jarvis Landry, as well as close friend C. J. Hamler. But he also learned a lot from former teammate and tight end Pat Freiermuth, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round in 2021.

“Pat is great at boxing people and playing big,” Dotson said. “Watching him every day and how he maneuvers and attacks the ball in the air … We have the same mindset when the ball is in the air that he is ours. People call it 50-50 balls, but we think it’s 100 to zero.”

Those who know Dotson nod in agreement.

“That 2020 season, he had a few drops early on, whether it was at camp or elsewhere,” Penn State receiving coach Taylor Stubblefield, a former college graduate, said. “He just kept getting better and better to the wow factor. “Oh, he caught it.” This speaks volumes about its competitiveness.”

During Washington’s rookie minicamp in May, receiving coach Drew Terrell pulled him aside and told him he needed to run faster.

“He didn’t look like he was trying or running, but he was. It’s so smooth,” Terrell said. “He’s not the kind of guy to plan a game for – ‘How are we going to get the ball to this guy?’ He can go and produce naturally. That’s what he put on his tape in college.”