RUSTON, La. -- Bobby Slaughter, Louisiana Tech's all-time leading receiver and a third-team Associated Press All-America this year, is quick to point out that he had good teachers.
Why, he grew up next door to Bert Jones, the Colts' quarterback of the 1970s. Jones' old teammate, Roger Carr, spent many hours with Slaughter, teaching him the nuances of the pass catching craft. His receivers coach now is Pat Tilley, who spent 11 years with the St. Louis Cardinals.
And the head of the Slaughter household, Bobby's father Mickey, was Louisiana Tech's offensive coordinator for 13 years. Before that, Mickey played quarterback at Tech and then went on to the Denver Broncos.
That Bobby Slaughter is at Louisiana Tech, preparing to meet Maryland in the Independence Bowl Saturday in nearby Shreveport, is no surprise to anyone in these parts. He was born to go to Tech.
His father went there, didn't he? So did his brother, Michael. There is a photo in the Bulldogs' training room of a sideline shot during a game long ago. Bobby Slaughter is in it, as Tech's ball boy when he was a small child, standing next to his father, then the offensive coordinator.
Forgive Tech coach Joe Raymond Peace for a slight exaggeration, but he points out Slaughter went to high school "just across the street."
Trouble is, coming out of Ruston High, Slaughter weighed only 145 pounds. He wasn't too fast either. College recruiters paid him no heed.
"I was average, and didn't play until I was a senior," Slaughter said. "I didn't deserve a scholarship. I caught maybe 30 balls in 14 games and had no expectations of a scholarship. I knew I was going to Louisiana Tech, anyway, so I walked on."
What Slaughter has done since rates in Peace's estimation as a "rags to riches story."
Blessed with a scholarship since after his redshirt freshman year in 1987, the 5-foot-11 Slaughter has grown to 175 pounds and trimmed his speed for 40 yards from 5.0 to 4.52 seconds.
"When you do a 4.6 or better on grass," Tilley said, "you're fast."
"I was a late bloomer," Slaughter said.
Slaughter this season ranked second in the country in receptions with 7.1 a game. His 78 catches established a school single-season record and raised his career total to 198, wiping out the Tech mark set by Terry Bradshaw's favorite receiver, Tommy Spinks, from 1966-69.
"My family is so proud I did something a lot of people felt I couldn't do," Slaughter said. "There are no secrets. I have worked very hard. I truly believe I have received the best coaching in college football."
Slaughter's 78th and final catch of the regular season was for the touchdown that tied Colorado State with barely two minutes left. The extra point won it for the Bulldogs, 31-30, and left them at 8-3.
"Actually, it was an easy catch," Tilley said. "Colorado State blitzed and left him wide open. But when the game's on the line and the crowd is screaming, you want your best guy there."
Slaughter gives full credit to Tilley and Carr for their help in shaping him as a receiver. Carr, who works in Tech's admissions office, volunteered to work with Slaughter when he was a high school senior.
"He led me through squats and toe races," Slaughter said. "I mean, he tried to kill me. But I got faster.
"Tilley advanced what Roger taught me. He knows so much. A lot of little things, like getting open, how to come out of the break, the body lean, techniques in concentration."
Tilley played at Tech in the 1970s and went on to become the Cardinals' No. 2 all-time receiver.
"At this stage, he's further along than I was," Tilley said. "We have a pro-style offense here and Bobby knows the patterns and coverages. He has faced better competition; in those days, we ** were Division II."
The last three years, Slaughter has had reception totals of 49, 60 and 78. To put that in perspective, the best wide receiver for air-minded Maryland, Barry Johnson, caught 34 passes this season. H-back Frank Wycheck set a Terps' single-season record with 58 catches.
"Bobby can play in the NFL," Peace said. "He may be the best possession receiver in college. The scouts agree; in fact, they tell me that. He runs such precise routes and has tremendous hands and concentration."
Slaughter was productive week after week this fall. He had games of 11, 10 and 10 catches and had at least six catches in eight of the 11 games. He gained over 100 yards receiving six times and ranks No. 8 nationally in yards per game with 90.4.
"There's no doubt he can play in the NFL," said Tilley, who was coached at Tech by Bobby's father. "He can catch in a crowd and make the great catch. He has as good a concentration as anyone I've seen on any level."
Tilley paused, then continued. "He can catch and has speed and savvy. He's tough. Bobby Slaughter will outwork anybody."
Oh, and one more thing about Tech's All-America boy. He has a 3.32 grade-point average and has been nominated for the Academic All-America team.