The smile that appears across the face of Jarvis West makes it evident that he hears about this particular topic now and again from teammates and coaches around the football complex.
When West arrived in Ames in the fall of 2009 for his official visit, he trotted around campus and the football facilities quietly and without much to say. The 5-foot-7, 171-pound receiver committed days after that visit, but his demeanor has hardly changed in the four football seasons since.
“They told me Jarvis didn’t say a word his first four years here,” first-year receivers coach Tommy Mangino joked.
West has become stronger, more physical on blocks, quicker and an integral part of both the Iowa State offense and return game since his arrival in Ames.
“Not very much,” West said, unable to hold back a smile when the topic was breached. “I kind of lead by example. I’m not very vocal.”
Through the first six games as a redshirt junior last season, West caught 14 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown while adding in a kickoff return for 95 yards and another score against Texas Tech. With his season showing promise, however, an MCL injury against Oklahoma State halted the campaign.
West would return for the season finale against West Virginia, catching one pass for negative three yards, but the majority of the second half of his season went wasted as he looked on from the sideline.
“[It was] extremely hard for me, because I thought I was having a pretty good season,” West said. “Being that I had another year, I took advantage of that.”
Fast forward four years from his initial visit to Jack Trice Stadium, and West remains the small, quiet player the team initially recruited. His small stature and shy demeanor make one key aspect of his game surprising.
“Pound for pound, Jarvis is one of our most explosive players on the team,” ISU coach Paul Rhoads said. “Top-5 for sure, maybe top-3."
West, with his small frame and all, has maxed out squatting 525 pounds.
“I have pretty strong legs for being little,” West said.
There is a familiar name that rolls off Rhoads’ tongue as he delves deeper into West’s explosive ability. Former ISU running back Troy Davis was 5-foot-8 and slightly above 180 pounds during his days in Ames, but Rhoads remembers the ISU legend twice knocking out blockers and in another instance breaking a teammate's jaw on a legal block.
“Jarvis,” Rhoads said, “just because of his compactness and explosiveness, has that ability.”
West also has the ability to be a top playmaker in his final season with the Cyclones. The redshirt senior figures to be among the starters when the season-opener rolls around Aug. 30, and will play a key role as the team’s punt returner.
He enters the season with 71 career receptions for 536 yards and four touchdowns.
“He’s slippery and he’s hiccup quick,” Rhoads said. “We’ve got to put him in more situations that help him and finish blocks and let him finish plays.”
Likely just as quietly as ever before.
“He’s a quiet leader,” Rhoads said. “He’s the type of guy that when he speaks, you listen, because he doesn’t speak that often.”