The Vikings' 2013 football season was one wide receiver Kasey Closs won't soon forget.
This year's recipient of the Norm Daniels Endowed Scholarship finished the year as one of the best wide receivers, not just for the Vikings, but nationally in the Football Championship Division (FCS). His numbers were eye popping.
Closs, who begins his final Viking season this fall, had one of the best receiving seasons in school history with 63 catches for 1,167 yards and eight touchdowns. He ranked fourth in the Big Sky in receiving yards per game and 12th in the nation. He had the third most receiving yards in a season in school history, averaging 18.5 yards per catch.
Not bad for a walk-on who redshirted the previous year.
But those achievements aren't what Closs will likely remember most.
"My first two catches for were for touchdowns," he recalled with a smile. But that wasn't the most important part. The important part was that they came as the Vikings nearly upset the California Golden Bears of the Pac-12.
"My first catch, I went 81 yards for a touchdown. That was a high. As a kid, you dream of playing in a Pac-12 game in one of those big stadiums. To be able to do that on my first catch…go the distance…was a fantasy come true," said the Lake Oswego High product who spent two seasons at Saddleback Junior College before joining the Vikings.
Because of injuries, Closs was lightly recruited and ended up redshirting his first year on the Park Blocks.
"We recruited him as a walk-on because we didn't have a scholarship available," recalled Steve Cooper, PSU's wide receiver coach. "He had a bit of a chip on his shoulder because of that and worked hard to overcome it. That redshirt year helped him hone his understanding of the offense."
Closs agreed that his knowledge of the offense, together with extra time watching film, put him in position for an extraordinary showing.
"I knew what I could do within the offensive concept. I just showed up every day and did what I could to help the team. I learned the offense, watched a lot of film, studied opposing teams and players and worked to understand what the defense was going to give me. I was able to see what was going to happen," Closs said.
Closs "has a knack for reading defensive coverage and finding that open window down the field," Cooper said.
"Physically, I'm not the quickest guy," said the 6'3", 205-pound Closs. "I used my smarts but I can be deceptively quick when I need to be. Physically, I did a lot of stretching and a lot of ball drills so I could have the best hands possible."
His goal for 2013 was "just to play and have fun." He wanted to be the best, but said he was ready for whatever came.
And he deflects a lot of the credit for his special season.
"It's a team effort. The offensive line, passing, coaching, my parents, I couldn't have done it without them," he said.
As the season progressed, Closs played a key leadership role, said Cooper. And, both he and Closs see that as an important aspect of his game this coming season.
He wants to be a team captain and a team leader in 2014.