When he got a chance to make an impression on the new offensive coaches at TCU last spring, Kolby Listenbee did it wisely — as a football player, not a sprinter trying to outrun everyone.
He got physical. He pushed. He banged.
For a player with three catches to his credit for his career, and perhaps better known for his potential in track, he made his presence felt.
It was not what co-offensive coordinator Doug Meacham, in his first practices with the Horned Frogs a year ago, was expecting.
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“There were at times some heated exchanges between him and a defensive back, which kind of surprised me,” Meacham said last week during TCU’s Media Day. “Because that’s not really in his DNA, maybe. Shoot, I saw a side of him I hadn’t seen.”
That side helped Listenbee turn into the Horned Frogs’ second-leading receiver a year ago. His track speed — he clocked a personal-record 10.03 seconds in the 100 meters for seventh at the NCAA nationals in Eugene, Ore., in June — helped him lead the team last year with 18.4 yards per catch.
But this season he might have more than speed on his side.
“You think about a 10-flat 100-meter guy and all that stuff, but his ball skills, route running, his toughness — they’ve all come a long way,” Meacham said. “He’s become a more complete player.”
That must have been obvious in the spring. Listenbee shined with all manner of routes. He also got more chances to work with quarterback Trevone Boykin because four other receivers were out or slowed by injury.
Listenbee continued to run track. He continued to make it to football practice. All in all, he continued to impress even hard-nosed defensive coaches.
Said coach Gary Patterson in April: “You get a lot of track guys that are really fast, but they don’t become football players. And he catches the inside ball, he catches the hard catch, the dig, the crossing route; he plays the ball in the air, which he didn’t do a year and a half ago.
“He caught a ball yesterday that was a back-shoulder throw that he came back to, and he also can outrun you.”
Receiver Josh Doctson, who sat out part of the spring with a broken hand, watched it happen before his eyes.
“I was really, really proud and happy for him, the leadership and the role he took over in the receiver unit while I was out,” Doctson said. “He was tremendous. He made plays I’ve never seen him make in the three years he’s been here. Not having me out there really allowed him to understand he had to take charge, and that’s exactly what he did.”
That wasn’t always the case. Listenbee was a quarterback in high school at Arlington Bowie. He had to learn to play receiver in college. He didn’t have all the receiver skills required.
“Three years ago, Kolby couldn’t catch the ball at all,” Doctson said with a smile. “I remember I used to talk with him and just encourage him. I remember we used to just look up at the stadium at practice when he was just mad about the day. I used to tell him, ‘There’s going to be better days, your time will come.’”
Meacham didn’t know Listenbee’s history. The new coach was just going by what he heard and saw. But he called Listenbee’s commitment to football, even in the midst of track season, “the defining moment” in his evaluation.
“For him to run track and come out here and grind with us the way we do, it just lets you know he’s come a long way,” Meacham said.
Doctson said he and Listenbee are both “late bloomers” who found their paths late.
“From not playinig and not being incorporated into the offense and feeling kind of left out, working hard and getting to where he is now — where we both are right now — we can look back and laugh at what we talked about years ago,” Doctson said. “Being in this position, it’s just a blessing. For him, there’s been a lot of confidence added. The sky’s the limit for that guy.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407