CSU on the NFL radar for producing high-class wideouts

Leo Friedman

Michael Gallup. Olabisi Johnson. Preston Williams. What do all these NFL players have in common? Two things. All three attended Colorado State University, and all three are proving their worth as wide receivers in the NFL.

In the past five years, Colorado State has developed a reputation as a “wide receiver university,” meaning the football program churns out wide receivers who become successful in the NFL. This reputation has helped boost the relevancy of the football program, allowing for talented high school and transfer wide receivers to be attracted to the Colorado State football program.

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According to the Denver Post, since 2016, four Rams wide receivers have been on NFL rosters. And these Rams were not just role players or benchwarmers. These Rams have played significant roles on their respective teams.

“The CSU wide receiver brotherhood is real,” Kyle Fredrickson of the Denver Post said.

Gallup, who was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 from CSU, has gone on to become a burgeoning star in the pros. In his second season, Gallup caught for 1,107 yards with six touchdowns. Gallup was only second in receiving yards to Amari Cooper on the team, with Cooper being a four-time pro-bowler. He wasn’t second to just anyone.

Gallup was a junior college transfer to CSU in 2016 and immediately began to contribute to the team. His two years at CSU brought him two-time all-Mountain West honors and gained him the name second-team All-American in 2017. It was around this time that CSU’s other wide receivers began to develop into advanced playmakers as well. 

Williams, a transfer from the University of Tennessee, blew up when he started playing for the Rams in 2018. Williams led the Mountain West that year with 1,345 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns, leading the conference in receiving yards and being named the first-team all-Mountain West. Even with such a success last year at CSU, NFL scouts overlooked Williams, and he went undrafted.

The Miami Dolphins went on to sign the undrafted Williams last year, and he went on to have a successful rookie season with them before he tore his ACL. In eight games, Williams was targeted 60 times and caught for 428 receiving yards with three touchdowns. In his last game for the Dolphins, Williams caught five catches for 72 yards with two touchdowns — also, unfortunately, tearing his ACL. At the time of his injury, Williams was leading the dolphins in receiving yards and was fourth among rookies in the NFL. 

Other receivers like Johnson and Rashard Higgins, of the Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns respectively, have played significant roles on their teams. In his rookie season, Johnson caught almost 300 receiving yards with three touchdowns, and Higgins has stayed part of the Browns’ squad for four years now.

Jackson appears to be the next prolific wide receiver to play for the Rams. In his junior season, Jackson caught 77 passes for 1,119 yards and only in 10 games due to injuries.

Jackson communicated with Gallup about the route-running and improving his game in general, showing how the brotherhood of CSU wideouts lives on after graduating. 

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According to The Coloradoan, the Rams had been targeting Jackson for years. Former head coach Mike Bobo made it a mission to get Jackson on the team as he did with other prolific CSU wide receivers. 

“We were one of his first offers in his recruiting process,” Bobo said. “We just continued to recruit, continued to try to build a relationship with him and were able to get him on a visit. … Him and his dad, they really fell in love with the place, and when he saw not just what we had to offer athletically, but as a university, he fell in love (with) the place, and we were able to get him in the fold.”

In July, after being named the 2020 preseason Mountain West Player of the Year, Jackson decided to forego his eligibility and enter the NFL draft. Jackson will likely join Johnson, Higgins, Gallup and Williams in the NFL as another talented CSU wide receiver.

“From day one, Warren Jackson has been all about this football team and developing his game for the next level,” head coach Steve Addazio said. 

Bobo is a big reason why CSU has gone after and signed top receivers in past years. He was all about creating competition at the receiver position to have as many weapons as possible.

“You can never have too many playmakers on your football team,” said Kelly Lyell of The Coloradoan“That’s why CSU coach Mike Bobo went after more top-notch receivers in his 2017 signing class, even with standouts Michael Gallup, Bisi Johnson and Detrich Clark returning against next season. He wants to make sure talented quarterbacks Nick Stevens and Collin Hill have reliable hands to throw to in 2017 and beyond.”

With Bobo gone and a pandemic canceling the 2020 CSU football season, it will be interesting to see if the tradition of successful wide receivers lives on with Addazio. Ideally, with having great playmakers like Gallup and Williams representing the Rams in the pros, the tradition will live on.

Leo Friedman can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @LeoFriedman13