CEDAR FALLS — The last commit of Northern Iowa’s 2018 recruiting class is already making an award-winning impact.
Freshman wide receiver Deion McShane reeled in seven catches for 117 yards, including an acrobatic touchdown grab, in just his third career game as a Panther this past Saturday. The Freeport, Ill., native’s big day led to being named the Missouri Valley Football Conference newcomer of the week. While the award was something McShane admits he’s grateful for, he was most excited about performing in front of his family — in particular, his older brother Steve, who’s a senior running back at Western Illinois.
“I felt like I had to put on a pretty good show,” McShane said. “A lot of my family members were (at the game) and I play with a chip on my shoulder, like, always. Them being there was like a big thing for me so I really wanted to show out.”
McShane was close to never being a Panther, but flipped his commitment in the proverbial 11th hour of signing day. The Freeport High School standout had multiple Division-I track offers after achieving state titles in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles (he acknowledged that he’s still considering running track), but said the trust he built with UNI head coach Mark Farley ultimately brought him to Cedar Falls.
“(Farley) told me, he said, you’ve got a chance to play but you really have to come in and earn it,” McShane said. “I was really thinking of, deciding on, if I really wanted to continue with football or go ahead and run track at a bigger school. I really like the coaches (at UNI) so I really wanted to continue my career as a Panther.”
Besides putting on a show for his family, McShane says his freshmen teammates have been a big boost to his early success. The class has bonded well and, as a result of his talent and demeanor, his peers have given him the nickname “Cha Cha.”
Quarterback Eli Dunne has quickly developed trust in the freshman slot receiver and lauded his ability Saturday to win one-on-one matchups. Still, despite accomplishing so much so soon, McShane knows that if his “Cha Cha” nickname is going to stick going forward he still has plenty to learn.
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“Route running, I would say I have to be better at,” McShane said. “Being more patient. Just thinking about more stuff. You got to learn a defense before you can get out there and actually play.”
McShane and the Panthers (1-2) travel to Terre Haute, Ind., on Thursday for a MVFC opener at Memorial Stadium against Indiana State. Kickoff against the Sycamores (2-1) is set for 6 p.m. (ESPN3).