Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Two years ago, Octavius Staton was just another face in the crowd. Another Ram sitting on the sidelines at gametime during the big plays -- the moments when he wanted to shine.

He knew he had the talent to be a top receiver for Albany State, but somehow he got lost in the shuffle. So he stayed patient.

"He didn't play for like the first five games (of his sophomore year)," ASU offensive coordinator Uyl Joyner said after practice Tuesday morning, the Rams' second of the season. "He didn't even touch the field. But you knew he wanted it. Octavius is the guy who never stops working. He always wanted to be in there."

So he worked tirelessly during the week and eagerly awaited Saturdays. Then finally, nearly halfway through the season, his number was called.

"His first catch in the first game he played, he caught a 5-yard hitch and took it 65 yards for a touchdown," Joyner said. "When he got his chance, he let us know we were wrong."

And Staton, who was named an HBCU Preseason All-American on Monday -- marking the Rams' only selection -- has continued to soar throughout the last two years. Behind Ronnie Childs, he was second on the team in receiving last year with 518 yards and six touchdowns. This year, his potential seems endless.

Joyner and head coach Mike White both said Tuesday that the table is set for Staton to have a breakout season as the slot receiver -- similar to what Childs did last season with 45 catches, 1,005 yards and 12 touchdowns.

"I think he wants it. I'm almost certain he wants it," White said. "Octavius is a receiver who is definitely a team guy. But he wants the ball to be coming his way, and he wants to make those big plays. After what Ronnie did last year, I think he wants to do that or better."

Staton doesn't fit the mold of the all-too-familiar brash, arrogant wideout, either.

He describes himself as just one of the guys on a talented Albany State offense. He listens to slow, soothing music before games. He talks of being a leader to his younger teammates, those who will one day replace the 6-foot-2 senior.

Instead, Staton does his talking on the field.

"Explosive, good hands, pretty fast," Staton said when asked to describe himself as a receiver. "I need to be one of the playmakers. We have four of them. We feel like we have a good receiving squad, so I feel like I'm just gonna fit in."

Staton graduated in 2008 from Chattahoochee County High School in Cusseta, where he was named to All-Region and All-State teams his senior year. A love for football stretches deep into Staton's childhood.

With his father in the military, Staton moved from town to town as he grew up.

One of the only constants? Football.

"Football was my favorite sport. I played basketball, too, but my high school coach told me I was a better athlete in football," Staton said. "He told me I could do more things in football because I was too short (for basketball). I ended up in football because he said I was fast and had great hands. He said football would take me a long way and get me into college."

White and the ASU coaching staff believed in him, too. They watched him dominate defenses in high school and turn short gains into highlight-reel touchdowns. They saw his speed, and they knew he could catch.

White said they only worried about his confidence.

"Coming out of high school he was very good," White said. "He had good hands and made a lot of tough catches. I remember the negative that we found out from his high school coach was that when something bad happened he would get down on himself too hard."

As an example, White pointed to a dropped pass during Staton's freshman year against Tuskegee. He also remembers how Staton "went down" and lost his confidence for the next few games.

But something has since changed in Staton's attitude. White said his receiver with outstanding hands and a nose for the ball simply "grew up."

"I think that has changed now," White said about Staton's lack of confidence early in his career. "He has grown from that, once we identified it and kind of talked to him about it. As a young man, as a student athlete, as a football player here, he has grown up."

He grew up and turned into one of ASU's biggest weapons on an offense last year that averaged 28.5 points per game. Staton began last season as the team's top receiver, catching touchdown after touchdown from quarterback Stanley Jennings, who went on to win the SIAC MVP.

Jennings remembers watching game film of Staton dropping that ball at Tuskegee, but the star quarterback now has all the confidence in the world in his new No. 1 receiver.

"If I'm throwing him the ball, I know he is going to catch it," Jennings said. "He is one of those receivers that you look at him and you don't think he's that good. But he has that unpredictable speed, and he is a great route runner. I think that's what makes him the receiver he is -- every route is crisp."

Staton's route running and his ability to turn a hopeless play into something extraordinary gave ASU a perfect complement to Childs.

"Octavius started out last year really hot," Joyner said. "He was our guy at the beginning of the year. I think he had a touchdown every game for three straight games. Then I guess (opponents) started shifting their defenses, and that's when Ronnie took off."

Childs, a native of Manchester, led the SIAC in receiving and was named to the 2010 Boxtorow HBCU All-American Team at the end of the season. Staton said he learned a lot from his former teammate, such as route running, exploding to the ball and getting off jams instead of getting "pressed up" by defensive backs.

"I have learned a lot of stuff," Staton said. "If I would have known this stuff in high school, I probably would have thought I was real good. But I learned a lot of stuff I never knew about."

But while Staton learned new techniques, he kept the same old work ethic -- something that Jennings sees every day on the practice field.

"He comes to practice every day and gives it everything he has," Jennings said. "He is always focused on and off the field. He isn't too cocky, even though he makes plays. He just likes to move on and make the next catch."

It's that tireless work ethic that has given him the edge in an offense that will rely on playmakers like Staton and Jennings to score.

"His work ethic is great," Joyner said. "When I asked him this offseason what he was benching when he first got here, he said it was 190. Now he is up to like 330-335.

"He is a strong guy and is the type of guy who is hard to bring down. You aren't going to bring him down with arm tackles. He will break through that. He will turn a 5-yard catch into a 60-yard gain. He is the type of guy you want to get the ball to quickly and let him run. And he can also put pressure on the safeties by getting on them quick and running the deeper routes. He can do it all."