A hint of open space is all it takes to make Daymond Patterson’s eyes light up like a meteor shower in the night sky.
Patterson, Kansas University’s junior wide receiver from Mesquite, Texas, thrives on finding those pocket-sized openings that are unnoticeable to the defenders trying to bring him down. Just flirting with daylight could result in a Patterson reservation for six in the end zone at any given time.
“They always say speed kills. You see that in a lot of top teams,” Patterson said. “It just changes the game. Like, if you catch a slant, and you have average speed, you might take it another 20 yards. But if you have that top-notch speed, a 20-yard catch can turn into 80, 90 yards.”
Patterson developed a reputation in the spring for possessing top-notch wheels. Lubbock Smith and Bradley McDougald both used “shifty” in describing Patterson’s football moves. Several Jayhawks, asked whom they’d take for fastest player on the team, put Patterson’s name at the top of their lists.
“If we were doing a 40-yard race, I’d put my money on Daymond Patterson,” McDougald, a sophomore wide receiver, said.
Receiver is Patterson’s natural position, but he has not always been able to showcase his talent there.
His freshman year at KU, for instance, Patterson started the first half of the season at receiver, but moved to cornerback for the final six games. The following year, his sophomore campaign in 2009, then-coach Mark Mangino left Patterson in the secondary.
Results varied, but were generally unfavorable. By the second half of last season, Patterson was coming off the bench. Not exactly an ideal situation, especially considering KU ranked 96th in the country in pass defense.
“It wasn’t really frustrating,” Patterson said of playing defense last season. “But you always want to play the position you came in at, or where you feel like you could help the team best. I just wanted to help the team where they needed me.”
When Turner Gill took over for Mangino in December 2009, he made a popular players move. Gill allowed the Jayhawks to request what position they wanted to play.
Patterson chose the position where he could use his speed on offense and make plays: receiver.
“I really love being back at my position. I appreciate it even more, just knowing what I had to do on the other side of the ball,” Patterson said. “But this is what I wanted to do (play receiver). Coach Gill gave me that chance.”
Patterson caught 14 passes for 154 yards and two scores on offense as a freshman, playing mostly in the slot position. He’ll return to the slot this season, the same position McDougald played last year. McDougald will move to the outside, likely joining senior Johnathan Wilson.
Patterson said lining up against linebackers and cornerbacks could give him a mental edge this season, since he has experience in thinking like a defender.
“It’s exactly who I am,” Patterson said of his personality and playing receiver meshing well together. “I’m trying to make people miss and always trying to embarrass somebody on the field. That’s what I like to do. I like to get the ball, and I like to make big plays. On defense, you don’t get as many opportunities to do that.”
His breakaway speed earned Patterson a chance to return punts and kicks as well. He’s listed atop both spots on KU’s most recent depth chart. Patterson returned punts his previous two years with the Jayhawks. He began his college career with a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown against Florida International in 2008.
“Daymond is a very unselfish guy,” KU receivers coach Darrell Wyatt said. “He was willing to make the move (to defense) and do what’s best for the team. But I think if you get him to tell you what he likes and appreciates more, it’s offense. He likes offensive football.”