Even before he took a vicious hit, everybody on the Indiana football team knew Shane Wynn was a tough kid.
So when the 5-7 junior was decked by Indiana State's Carlos Aviles on a fair catch in the third quarter last Thursday, you can bet he popped right back up.
"That is Shane," junior wide receiver Cody Latimer said in preseason camp. "Shane's a tough little (dude). I mean he can take any hit. I've seen him take big hits and just get up like it was nothing. He'll get in the defenders face and talk stuff like 'What, that wasn't enough?'"
You can also bet that his teammates took offense to watching Indiana's version of the Energizer bunny take a cheap shot.
Indiana scored 21 points following the hit en route to a 73-35 blowout of the Sycamores. On the ensuing drive, senior receiver Kofi Hughes put himself in — taking what was supposed to be junior Nick Stoner's spot for the series — to avenge the hit.
The Hoosiers ran three plays on the drive. All three were passes from sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld to Hughes. The last was a 27-yard touchdown that Hughes took away from his defender.
"It made us really, really angry but instead of taking it out in like a ‘We want to fight,' way we were going to take it out on the football. We're going to be physical," said redshirt sophomore quarterback Tre Roberson. "If you see the drive, that touchdown drive, Kofi Hughes took it upon himself to be the man on that drive because him and Shane are like real brothers."
Wynn admitted he was a little woozy from the hit. But after the game, when Kevin Wilson texted him to make sure he was okay, Wynn took that as an opportunity to remind everybody that he's, well, Shane Wynn.
"Yea I'm the toughest guy on the team," he said. "I'll be alright, man. Just a little nick. I mean it happens in football — you're going to get hit. If you get hit, just pop right back up."
Wilson smiled when recalling the text. But he also liked the comment made by one of his own young sons in response.
"We were texting Thursday night," Wilson said of Wynn. "He said he's the toughest guy on the team. I said, my little kid says quit faking it, you're good, let's roll."
Wynn is treated by his teammates like "a little brother," as he put it, in part because of his size. That's also because he's one of Indiana's most energetic and intriguing players.
"Shane has a great time," Latimer said. "He loves football and enjoys life it looks like. He's always here laughing and playing and having a good time. But he gets serious when he's out here on this field. He's great to be around."
He has also always had tremendous speed. When he got to Indiana, he had a lot to learn about football, leadership and attitude.
"He's just grown up," co-offensive coordinator Kevin Johns said. "And I think any young man when you come to college, you know you leave high school and you're the all-American, you're Mr. King, and then you come here and you're the lowest on the totem pole. It takes time.
"He was thrown right into the fire his first year. But he's grown up quite a bit and he's becoming a man."
Johns said the part of Wynn's game that has improved the most is his knowledge. He said Wynn understands every coverage and every play. That further helps him fulfill his role.
"I'm the energy builder," Wynn said. "When the team is down or when things aren't going our way I'm there to pick us up and just laugh and goof around and let them know it's good to have fun while you're playing hard at the same time."
Because of his personality, his teammates naturally gravitate towards him. Wynn's chatter is far from empty. He has 903 career receiving yards and eight touchdowns. He always brings the threat of a big play — he caught a 43-yard touchdown and returned a punt 58 yards for a touchdown against Indiana State."To me, he's got a good voice but he backs it up with the way he plays," Wilson said. "It's one thing to talk. But you can't talk if you don't play, and he plays pretty good."
Wynn said he tries to avoid hits with his speed so that he's ready at the point of attack. Either way it's probably not a good idea to lay a big hit on him. You'd just be getting Indiana fired up.
"We look for that energy and that spark, and we know that when he's got that little swag on when he makes a couple plays that helps all of our guys," Johns said. "We feed off that."
If anything, Wynn probably relishes the big hit. Then he gets to be the energy builder. He said he goes over the middle for his team, not just himself.
"If I get hit, I just get hit," he said. "They're going to keep hitting me all day because I'm keep catching the ball. You're going to get hit whether you catch it or you drop it.
"So you might as well catch it."