Over the past few years, there have been few receivers in college football more productive than Antonio Golden-Gandy.
But part of the reason the Redskins were able to nab the highly-effective pass-catcher in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft was due to the fact that he played his college ball at Liberty University, a non-Power Five school that just made the jump to the FBS level two seasons ago.
As a junior during the Flames' first FBS season, Gandy-Golden turned in an incredible 71-catch, 1,037-yard campaign during 2018. That season was when the wideout realized he had the potential to play in the NFL. But there was one catch he made during his senior season that proved to himself the type of wide receiver he truly could become.
Liberty was facing Rutgers, one of three Power Five schools the team would face all season. With the game tied at 14 in the second quarter, Gandy-Golden pulled in a miraculous grab along the left sideline for a touchdown despite the defensive back draped all over him.
"I caught the one-handed ball with my left hand, something I usually don't ever do," Gandy-Golden said to local reporters on a Zoom conference Wednesday. "The DB was tugging and pulling on me, I felt like it should have gotten a flag beforehand. I just feel like [that catch] shows my focus, my determination, and it is my ability to fight through contact to catch the ball."
Future NFL first round pick Antonio Gandy-Golden with one hell of a TD catch pic.twitter.com/9SHvOXWLaP— Richard Schnyderite (@RichieSRivals) October 26, 2019
The Scarlet Nights edged out Gandy-Golden's Flames, but the wideout proved during that contest he could play with the talent from a major conference.
In the three games Gandy-Golden played against Power Five opponents in 2019, he finished with a total of 17 catches for 237 yards and two touchdowns.
"I definitely feel like I have a chip on my shoulder," he said. "The small school thing comes up a lot with me for some reason even though I have produced. I plan on coming into the league and playing right away, at least getting in the game and showing what I can do."
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At 6-foot-4, Gandy-Golden is the second-tallest wide receiver on the roster, trailing only Cam Sims. With Sims likely on the roster bubble entering training camp, Gandy-Golden could certainly enter the 2020 season as the team's biggest pass-catcher.
Dating back to high school, one of Gandy-Golden's biggest strengths as a receiver has been using his tall frame to haul in those contested, 50-50 throws. It's something he focused on every day in college and prided himself on getting better at.
"We definitely practiced it every day in practice, just those contested catches and things like that," he said. "During the game, not every ball I'm going to be wide open. Just for the quarterback to be confident enough to throw it to me, I feel like I have to come down with it."
While many coaches and scouts were impressed by his ability to make those contested grabs, one of the knocks on the Liberty product coming out of college was his inability to create separation. His 4.60 40-yard dash time at the Combine in February also raised concerns about his speed.
The 22-year-old was asked about those concerns, and he understands everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But for himself, he's not worried about those concerns as he enters his first NFL season.
"I feel like you can watch my film, I do get past people. Of course, no one gets past everyone all the time," he said. "That's something I'll definitely be working on. I'll be out here working, so I don't feel like that will be a problem."
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