There Jauan Wesley stands at 7:35 p.m. on this particular Tuesday with a red binder clutched to his left side and a smile that cannot quite be contained.
The 19-year-old receiver is talking with the media for the first time in his career just days after the true freshman suddenly went from the scout team to learning a loaded offensive playbook in an attempt to prepare for Baylor. He leans against the wall, his friend and fellow true freshman Martinez Syria laughing with each answer while he records every second with his phone.
“It’s kind of exciting being in the spotlight, I guess,” Wesley says with a wide smile, “because you’ve got to step up and play a role.”
The intention all along for Wesley, a three-star from Markham, Ill., was to redshirt his initial college season while adding weight to his 5-foot-11 frame that currently stands at 177 pounds.
Then came the season and then came the injuries. Quenton Bundrage fell to the ground four plays into the season with a torn ACL, and before the Cyclones could leave Kinnick Stadium with their first victory, P.J. Harris fractured his leg. Brett Medders, whose role was beginning to increase, left practice last Wednesday with a torn ACL.
The next morning, offensive coordinator Mark Mangino picked up his phone.
“He called me Thursday morning and told me to come in and watch film before class,” said Wesley, who, with the phone call, had become part of the receiving corps. “I came in, did that, and I watched some after so I’d be on pace for the game.”
Iowa State had no choice but to burn Wesley’s redshirt. He called his parents — who had traveled to Ames during the bye week to see him — and let them know he would be making his debut. On short notice, this was bad timing.
“They couldn’t make it,” Wesley said.
With two days to prepare for his first action, Wesley took his playbook everywhere. He did his homework at night and then turned to more homework — learning the plays and remembering his blocks and routes.
“When I finished my homework, the playbook is like the second homework I had to do to learn the plays and everything,” Wesley said. “The mornings are school, so after school it’s just straight football. So therefore I have from 2 [p.m.] until the time I go to bed to learn the plays and everything.”
Before kickoff of his first game Saturday, Wesley sat at his locker jittery when receivers coach Tommy Mangino stopped over to calm him. The coaches needed to coach the true freshman from the sideline as two days didn’t prove to be enough for him to cram a large and complicated playbook into his brain.
“Jauan is a talented player,” Mangino said. “He was brought up from the scout team Thursday morning. He wasn’t practicing for Baylor. To see him get in there — he made a couple of mistakes — what he can do is pretty impressive. Just think when he has a whole week to learn the game plan. He should help us.”
Wesley, who had 51 catches for 806 yards and six touchdowns as a senior at Thornton Township, didn’t come away with any catches in his Iowa State debut, but the game went from what he said was initially ‘scary’ to realizing he can compete.
To do so, Wesley knows he must continue to learn. That’s why he had that red binder, with dozens of plays scripted inside, clutched along his side. That binder goes everywhere with Wesley — even to dinner after several hours of practice.
“There’s not really any pressure,” Wesley said. “It’s just we were recruited here to play football, so this is what we’re here to do.”