FORT COLLINS — The footballs came so fast, so furiously, and in such large quantities that Kivon Cartwright’s hands began to hurt. And yet, this is what he knew he must do to reach the heights he wanted to attain.
So, under the hot Fort Collins summer sun, multiple times a week Cartwright caught pass after pass from a Jugs machine. Hundreds of them. It was him, the machine, and a helper to run the machine.
His hands went from slick to sticky, and the sophomore tight end has put them to good use through three games, leading Colorado State Rams with 11 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown.
“I would catch 100 balls a day after every workout,” Cartwright said. “It helped a lot.”
Last year he was known as the player with immense talent, if only he could hold onto the ball. That rap followed him everywhere his 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame went. He is one of the new-breed tight ends, players too big for a cornerback to cover, yet too fast for a linebacker or safety. Cartwright, with now reliable receiving skills, has evolved to become one of those threats.
“He’s a guy that as we develop will become more and more involved,” Rams coach Jim McElwain said. “I can’t say enough good things about how he practices and his approach and how important it is to him. … He was one of our team captains last week, which kind of shows you where we’re at.”
Prior to the season, it was difficult to predict who would catch the ball for CSU in McElwain’s new offense. One would start with the team’s leading receiver from a year ago — tight end Crockett Gillmore — and continue on to a host of wide receivers CSU hoped would step up and assume a playmaking role.
Cartwright was the wild card.
Not anymore. Right now, he’s feasting while defenses continue to key on Gillmore and others.
“I knew the first summer I was here, just looking at the body he had, what he could develop into,” quarterback Garrett
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Grayson said. “He’s always had the size and speed, but he did a lot this offseason working on his hands. He’s got phenomenal hands now.”
Mentally, Cartwright’s a cool customer. He attributes his sense of calm to his faith; Cartwright’s a devout Christian, something ingrained into him by his parents. Cartwright lived somewhat of a nomadic existence as a youth. He was born in Hawaii, moved to New York and lived in Colorado Springs before settling in Pueblo, where he attended South High School.
Ask him where he calls home now?
“Southern California,” Cartwright said. “My mom lives out there. That’s where I go home to.”
On the field, for all of his success, Cartwright said he’s just begun. He believes he can be much better.
“Just to be better at everything,” he said of his goal. “Blocking, catching, understanding defenses, just all-around better at all phases of being a tight end.”
Christopher Dempsey: 303-954-1279, email@example.com or twitter.com/dempseypostlink