Superstitious Daikiel Shorts Works Toward NFL Dream - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Superstitious Daikiel Shorts Works Toward NFL Dream

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Daikiel Shorts prepares for WVU's Pro Day and a chance to impress NFL coaches and scouts. (PHOTO: Emily Coyle) Daikiel Shorts prepares for WVU's Pro Day and a chance to impress NFL coaches and scouts. (PHOTO: Emily Coyle)
MORGANTOWN -

Somewhere on the campus of West Virginia University, there sits an apartment that features a direct line to the National Football League. You just have to know where to look.

You also have to make sure you get first pick when you and your roommates decide which bedroom you will each be claiming for the year.

In the spring of 2014, WVU football players Kevin White, Wendell Smallwood and Daikiel Shorts moved into this apartment together.

It was White’s final season with the Mountaineers and he was coming off of a disappointing, injury-plagued debut the prior fall. When the three got together to decide who would get which room in their new apartment, White, perhaps out of seniority over the other two sophomores, chose the basement.

Ten touchdowns, 1,447 yards and a blazing 40-yard dash time later and White had positioned himself among the top prospects for the next level. About a year after he had signed the lease on that apartment by the stadium, he was signing a deal as the No. 7 overall selection of the Chicago Bears in the NFL Draft.

The moment White left for the league, Smallwood took his place in the basement.

Football players (and coaches and fans, to be sure) are dripping with superstition. If they wore a certain t-shirt all week during practice and wound up with a victory on the weekend, you can bet that stinky shirt is staying on for the following week.

“It’s everywhere. Coaches, players, NFL, college, little league – I think it’s superstition,” Smallwood said. “If we win one week, we do the same thing we did next week. If we lose, we start rethinking it. But we don’t change anything when we’re winning.”

In January of 2016, after leading the Big 12 with 1,549 yards, Smallwood declared for the NFL Draft. The Philadelphia Eagles added him to their roster with a fifth round selection.

So last May, it was a no-brainer for Shorts. He had seen two roommates spend the better part of the year in the basement and spend their next season in the National Football League. Shorts offered his upstairs bedroom, the biggest in the house, to a new roommate and took his spot downstairs with the hope that whatever magic worked for White and Smallwood would rub off on him in the 2016 season.

Shorts led the Mountaineers with 63 receptions during his senior season, tallying 894 yards and five scores along the way. Of his 63 catches, 50 were for either first downs or touchdowns. He was as consistent of a target as West Virginia had in its receiving corps.

Of course he was. He stayed in the basement.

“It’s something about just the focus that’s down there. It’s kind of separated from the house,” Smallwood said. “In the basement, you’re by yourself and you can think and I think it kind of helped us focus and we took that theory. We’re really superstitious about things, so we took it and ran with it.”

Now Shorts hopes his living quarters can pay off with a spot in the NFL. Unlike White and Smallwood, Shorts was not rewarded for his final collegiate season with an invitation to the NFL Combine. He will have his chance to show off for league scouts and coaches on Friday when the Mountaineers host their annual Pro Day in Morgantown.

For the past few months, he has been training in Arizona and now back on campus with his old WVU coaches and teammates.

“It’s been a grind, honestly,” Shorts said, “but it’s something I’ll never take for granted. I’m working for a purpose every day, so I take every day and try to be as happy as I can, work as hard as I can and see if I get picked up at the next level.”

Smallwood, having just wrapped up his rookie campaign, believes that Shorts offers a number of attributes that, while perhaps not so flashy, are appealing to coaches at the next level.

“I think he’s just a big receiver. He catches the ball well, he works the middle better than anyone I’ve seen, so I think anywhere he lands, no matter when he goes, he’s going to be a great fit,” Smallwood said of Shorts. “He has the body for it and he has the work ethic and just me actually doing it and knowing how he works, I know he can do it probably even better than me.”

Should Shorts hear his name called in next month’s NFL Draft, or even if he winds up taking the undrafted free agent route to one of 32 league camps, his superstitious side may be thanking the bottom floor of a Morgantown apartment for giving him that extra push toward his dream.

And if he does make it, expect to see many more current and future Mountaineers fighting over that basement bedroom.

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