Deloatch learns at Top Gun camp it's not enough to simply be a big target

As soon as wide receiver drills were finished Thursday in the blazing heat at James City County Stadium, Romond Deloatch wasn't ready for a drink of water or a seat in the shade.

He wanted more football, more instruction, more opportunity to absorb as much as he possibly could. He came to the right place by attending the Football University Top Gun camp at the Warhill High Sports Complex. Deloatch didn't have to go far to get a little extra tutoring, something he hopes helps transform him into more than just another big body at the receiver position.

There's no question he already has the physical side of the game down. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Deloatch qualifies as one of the biggest targets in the Peninsula District. Oh, and he's just about to start his junior year at Phoebus High.

"The first thing people see is 'Oh, he's a big wideout, so he probably has good potential'" Deloatch said. "When I come out here (to camps), by the end of the day, they see how I move and how I can catch the ball in tight pressure."

Despite his youth, he already passes the eye test – that's coming from people that know what they're looking at.

"He'll play at the D-I level, without a doubt," said Chris Jackson, who is one of more than 75 instructors working this week at the camp with nearly 1,000 youth and high school football-playing attendees.

Jackson has the credentials to be considered a shrewd judge of receiving talent. In 1997, he was former quarterback Ryan Leaf's favorite target on a Washington State team that made it to the Rose Bowl. Jackson went on to have a journeyman pro career that spanned over 11 years and 10 teams in three different leagues – National Football League, Arena Football League and Canadian Football League.

"With (Deloatch's) size, he's just running down the field and out-jumping people, I think, at this level," Jackson said. "When he gets to the next level, he's going to have to run a detailed comeback route. He's got good feet. Running full-speed at that size, and being able to stop his momentum and change (direction), that's what we talked about.

"He's so big that when he stops, he just thinks that by stopping and simply turning around that'll be enough to get catches. You have to explode in and out of your breaks and head back downhill because the defensive back is driving right at you. I think that just hit him right now...He's building trust because he's asking me for the answers. I like that, man, because he's a kid that knows he needs the help. I've got all the answers for you. All you have to do is ask for help."

After logging just 10 receptions for 146 yards last season, Deloatch hopes to make a much bigger impact this season. He has already started to garner attention, earning Most Valuable Player honors for wide receivers in June at a National Underclassmen Combine camp in New Jersey. Rising junior Eric Enderson, who is projected to be Phoebus' starting quarterback this coming season, also took MVP honors for quarterbacks at the camp in New Jersey.

With 6-4, 210-pound receiver Rodriguez Jones transferring from Denbigh High to Phoebus this coming year, there's a good chance the Phantoms may have the tallest receiving duo in all of Hampton Roads. Deloatch thinks Jones' presence will make Deloatch's job easier in the Phantoms' No. 1 receiver role, something he admits not being completely ready for early last season.

"I was a little nervous last year because it was my first year moving up to that No. 1 spot on the depth chart," Deloatch said. "Now, I feel like I mean something to the team. I feel like a big leader. I also feel like I'm different in my family life, too, as far as maturity-wise is concerned. I feel confident everywhere I go now, and I'm actually taking advantage of things that are in front of me."

When Deloatch found out in April that Jones was transferring, it stirred the competitive nature of Deloatch's personality. He admitted to feeling a little threatened, a reasonable emotion considering Jones had a total of 50 catches in the last two seasons. Deloatch wasn't about to just hand over his opportunity to be Enderson's favorite receiver, but 7-on-7 drills this summer have shown Deloatch there's room for both tall receivers on the field.

"Me and (Jones) have been working out a lot together this summer," Deloatch said. "He's in summer school right now, but when he's out of school probably after this week, we'll work on running routes together. He's slower than me, but he runs really good routes. He'll help me out and I'll help him out. We're like brothers."

Deloatch's approach to the game and his potential college future have changed in recent months. Last year, Deloatch said he'd have been more apt to hang out with his friends, chase girls or even just sit on the couch than he would've been to hit the weight room. That's no longer the case.

He doesn't have any verbal scholarship offers to this point, but he said written correspondences he has received from Florida and Mississippi inspired him to follow up. College coaches can't call players as young as Deloatch, but he took the initiative to call Florida and Mississippi to thank them for the letters.

"Now, the girls and everything else, that's not as important," Deloatch said. "It's just football and traveling and school. It's pretty much football all day for me."