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The Anti-Diva: How Nevada's Romeo Doubs became nation's best receiver

Romeo Doubs
Romeo Doubs leads the nation in receiving yards per game. (David Calvert/Nevada athletics)

Wide receivers have a stereotype.

They’re prima donnas. They’re divas. They want the attention, they want the spotlight and they want the ball. And while no stereotype is 100 percent accurate, Nevada wide receivers coach Eric Scott, who played the position himself at Northwestern and UCLA, said the diva wide receiver is generally spot-on.

“Wide receivers should be arrogant,” Scott said in describing the stereotype. “They should be flamboyant. They should be a diva.”

But Nevada’s Romeo Doubs, college football’s most productive receiver this season, doesn’t display those qualities.

“He has all the ability of any superstar wide receiver without any of the diva-ness,” Scott said.

In fact, Doubs hates the spotlight. He gets mad if coaches give him the superstar treatment in practice and tell him to take it easy. He once asked Scott if he should do pushups after a rare drop during a game. Still shy, it wasn’t until last year when Doubs really started talking and interacting with his most of his teammates. And he's dodged interviews like defenders, preferring to let his game (and his team) do the talking for him.

"I love Romeo,” Nevada head coach Jay Norvell said.

“Romeo is special,” Wolf Pack safety Tyson Williams said.

“Romeo is a phenomenal player,” quarterback Carson Strong gushed. "He’s unbelievable."

“He's a different athlete; you walk in the room and you notice him,” added tight end Cole Turner, Doubs' roommate.

It’s Scott, who called Doubs “a coach’s dream,” who is responsible for getting the 6-foot-2, 200-pound star receiver to Nevada. In 2015, Scott was the head coach at Los Angeles High and was preparing for his team’s playoff run when he scouted a game between two teams his Romans could potentially play that postseason.

One of the teams was quarterbacked by Doubs, a skinny sophomore Scott was familiar with from his time running Snoop Dogg's Youth Football League. Shortly after Scott settled into his seat to scout the playoff game, the Romeo Doubs Show started. He played quarterback in the run-first Wing T offense, split out to running back and receiver on occasion, roamed defensively as a free safety and returned kickoffs and punts.

“He scored, like, seven touchdowns in the game,” Scott recalled. “He returned a kick, he returned a punt, he was the quarterback and threw a touchdown, went to running back and scored another two touchdowns, had an interception for a touchdown. I was, like, ‘Wow, this kid is all over the place.’ There were like three Black kids and maybe 18 Latinos on the team and he was the guy.”

Scott’s Los Angeles High bulldozed Doubs’ Thomas Jefferson High in those playoffs – a 42-7 victory for the Romans – but Scott didn't forget the name, and Doubs only got better (as a senior, he had a game where he tallied 632 yards and eight touchdowns on 20 touches while adding an interception on defense).

And when Scott joined the Nevada football staff in 2017 after Norvell was hired, he was installed as the Wolf Pack’s Los Angeles recruiting ace. When it came to the 2018 class, there was one player Scott had to have. That player was Doubs, who three years later has become the star of Nevada's ascending program.

“We had a lot of guys up on the board,” Scott said of Nevada's 2018 class. "But, for me, it was, ‘I’ve got to have this one. I’ll bet the ranch on this one. I know what this one can do.’”

Nevada was the first school to offer Doubs a scholarship with Scott doing the leg work. Doubs’ high school sits on the corner of Compton Avenue and 41st Street in Los Angeles. It’s not a place you typically see college recruiters, but Scott’s experience in the area proved vital.

“It’s on the east side of L.A.,” Scott said. “One of those schools with a lot of race riots they used to have with the Latinos and the Blacks. Very under-recruited. It’s not a place that would be on your list of, ‘You know what? Let me go over here and recruit Jefferson High and see what’s over there.”

Most colleges don’t recruit the inner city, Scott said, assuming kids at those schools don’t have the grades to get qualified for FBS ball. But Scott knew Doubs had a grade-point average above 3.0, and the athleticism was obvious. Scott’s friends in the business – like then-USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin and then-Oregon receiver coach Mike Johnson – both liked Doubs, too, but didn’t know where to play him. Scott figured Doubs would be an elite receiver as long as he could catch, which led to a trip to Jefferson High.

“I threw him a couple of balls, he caught them and I left going, ‘Oh, good, that’s all I had to see,'” Scott said.

Norvell, a wide receiver specialist himself, loved the athleticism he saw on tape and authorized Scott to grant the offer, which triggered a dozen other schools to do the same, including Washington State, Rutgers, San Diego State, UNLV, San Jose State and Wyoming. But Doubs' recruitment wasn't a drag-out fight despite those offers.

“Inner city, a lot of those kids are kind of first come, first serve,” Scott said. “They’re loyal to people who are loyal to them. We stayed in communication and had a couple conversations with mom. Romeo is a very shy kid. He’s really shy. He didn’t like a lot of attention. Even when they came on the visit, she felt like this was a really good place for him because it was a college town, it was quiet, slow moving.”

Doubs’ explosiveness was quickly evident. The first time he touched the ball in a college game, as a true freshman against Portland State in 2017, Doubs returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown. He ended that season with 43 catches for 562 yards and three scores. Last season, Doubs’ campaign was bookended by injuries, a concussion in September and shoulder injury in November limiting him to 44 receptions for 649 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games. Those were solid, but not spectacular, numbers.

His junior season has been a revelation. In the season opener, Doubs caught a career-best 12 passes, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime. He added a career-high 219 receiving yards in game two. And in games three and four, Doubs has caught three touchdowns in both contests. Overall, his 161.3 yards per game tops the nation. His eight touchdown grabs are the most per game in the FBS.

“I’m so happy he’s on our team and I get to play with him,” said Strong, who is having a special season in his own right. “He’s my roommate, so we talk ball a lot. We know we’re on the same page, and he’s just a great player. I’m missing him on a lot of throws. He could have even more touchdowns every game if I wasn’t letting him down, missing him. He’s a really good player, and I’m very lucky to have him.”

Despite not having classic blazing speed, Doubs is typically the fastest man on the field. Of his eight touchdowns catches this season, five are on completions of 40-plus yards, including four of 50-plus yards.

“Romeo is a classic example of a guy who has competitive speed,” Norvell said. “If you take him out on the track, his times probably aren’t that impressive. But if you put him on the football field, he only has one speed. That’s the way he practices every day. He just works so hard, and every great receiver I’ve been around, that’s the quality they have. They practice as hard as they play.

“I’m not comparing him to Jerry Rice, but that was one of the qualities that Jerry Rice had. He didn’t have an impressive 40 time, but on the field nobody ever caught him, and he ran away from people. I think that’s a great quality Romeo has, and on game day he just seems faster than he does when you time him on a track.”

Scott said that might be downplaying Doubs’ speed as he’s consistently recorded a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, which is an above-average time for an NFL receiver. But it’s not the athleticism that endears Doubs to his team. It’s the person he is, his humble nature, his selfless attitude.

“He’s such a nice guy,” Scott said. “If Romeo has a dollar, he’ll give you 50 cents. He’s always helpful, and when he does speak you listen because he’s very thoughtful and gives helpful advice to his teammates. He just does not like the spotlight. For me, Romeo is like a coach’s dream because he has one speed in practice. He’s all out. You can’t even give him the superstar treatment. That’s the worst. That’s when he gets angry. If you tell him, ‘Romeo, why don’t you just relax today? We want to rest you,’ he really thinks there’s something wrong. That’s when he gets angry. He wants to practice. He wants to give you everything he has, and that’s daily. He never slows down. He’s 100 percent all the time.”

Added Williams, the Wolf Pack defensive back who goes against Doubs in practice: “He’s very humble. That’s the best thing about him. He’ll kill you on one play, and he’ll just smile. He won’t talk all that junk.”

Not one to be complacent, Doubs could be positioning himself for an early-entry into the NFL draft after his junior season, not that he’s thinking about that. With Doubs only in his third year as a wide receiver, Scott said he’d give his pupil a “6.5 to 7 out of 10” on route running, so there’s room to get better, to unlock more of his talent. Scott wouldn't be surprised if Doubs becomes a first- or second-round draft pick in time given his blend of skills. But you won’t hear Doubs bragging about himself. He’s the anti-diva wide receiver, but others don’t mind bragging about him.

“He has a very rare combination,” Scott said. “He has nice size and a combination of speed and quickness. You rarely get all three in one guy, and he has all three. He’s a special player and a special person.”

Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at crmurray@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.

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