Monday, August 30, 2021

That's Three For Jesper Horsted

Had it been any other week of preseason NFL football, then the highlight that would have intrigued TigerBlog the most would have been the one of Justin Reid's kickoff.

Reid is a safety for the Houston Texans. Because the Houston placekicker had a slight injury and wasn't used in the game against Tampa Bay, Reid kicked off - and reached the end zone. Houston went for two after its touchdowns and never punted, by the way.

It used to be that placekicking was often done by players who played other positions. Most notably, there was Lou Groza, who was a placekicker and offensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns from the 1940s through the 1960s. 

Groza, a Pro Football Hall of Fame member, is the one for whom the college football Placekicker of the Year award is named. Groza kicked at Ohio State before serving for three years in World War II, and he joined the Browns when he returned. At the time, the team was in the old All-American Football Conference, which existed for four years and which had Cleveland win all four years (1946-49).

Cleveland then joined the NFL in 1950 as part of a merger that also included the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Colts, and the Browns won the NFL title in their first season in that league as well.

Meanwhile, back at Saturday night, this was not any regular NFL preseason week. This was the NFL preseason week where Jesper Horsted caught three touchdown passes for the Chicago Bears in a 27-24 win over Tennessee.

Horsted, a third-year tight end from Princeton, had an incredible game in his push to make the team's final 53-man roster, with cuts due by tomorrow at 3. In all he was targeted five times and caught all five, totaling 104 yards in addition to the three touchdowns.

His first TD was on a 20-yard catch on which he tip-toed the end zone while hauling in a pass from first-round pick Justin Fields. It was an impressive throw by Fields, who had to create something out of nothing by rolling to his right and then floated the ball to Horsted, whose reception while staying in bounds was equally as impressive.

Touchdown No. 2 came on a six-yard throw from former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. This also wasn't an easy catch, as Horsted had to catch it in traffic on a dart from Foles.

The final one came on a 54-yard play on which Horsted first made a tough one-handed catch and then outran the Titans' defense to the end zone. It came midway through the fourth quarter with the Bears behind 24-20 and provided the winning points. 

If you're wondering the last time Horsted had three touchdown receptions in a game, it was in his final game at Princeton, when he caught eight passes for 165 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-14 win over Penn. That win capped Princeton's perfect 2018 season. 

It wasn't his only three-TD game at Princeton. Horsted, Princeton's career record holder with 28 touchdown receptions (nobody else has ever reached 20), had three against Monmouth that same season.

What's even more impressive about Horsted's school record is that he had exactly one TD reception for his first two seasons combined. That means he ended up with 27 his last two years, with 14 as a junior and 13 as a senior.

A great athlete who was also a first-team All-Ivy League selection in baseball, Horsted is in Year 3 with the Bears. To date, he has eight career receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown he hauled in on Thanksgiving Day 2019 against the Lions. He spent all of last year on the practice squad.

Where will he spend this year? 

Well, pretty much every story that TB read yesterday that projected the Bears' final 53 has Horsted on it after his performance Saturday. At worst, if Horsted does get cut, he has a great chance of being picked up by someone else who saw the film from Saturday, and if that doesn't happen (unlikely), he'll be back on the Chicago practice squad.

Horsted is one of those guys who only needs a chance. He is a touchdown magnet. He finds the ball. He finds the end zone. That's just how he is. Give him regular playing time, and he'll put up numbers. TB has no doubt about that. 

He's also another of those athletes who is just a nearly perfect ambassador for Princeton. Here he is after the game Saturday:

Again, the only thing that's changed since his Princeton days is that his hair is longer. His ability to catch any ball that comes his way and turn it into points has not.

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