Florida wide receiver Justin Shorter comes in early and leaves late.
A day off is a badly spent day.
“I just feel like I’m wasting time,” Shorter said.
Shorter, a redshirt senior who turns 22 this month, maxes out every day in a never-ending quest to improve his craft. Frustration over the Gators’ six-win 2021 season is among the ingredients fueling his desire.
“We have players who are hungry and hate to lose,” he said after practice on Saturday. “Just thinking about last year, every loss, makes me so angry. Everyone works so much harder.
“We’re all trying to come back and really attack each other.”
From his chiseled 6-foot-4, 215-pound physique to post-workout road running, Shorter sets a standard for everyone to follow.
“He leads by example,” receivers coach Keary Colbert said. “Just how he takes care of his body, how he’s always here, whether it’s in the weight room or whether he’s here to catch Jugs [machine], how he practices and how he is doing. For the young guys or the guys coming up, they’ll see that and kind of understand that that’s the way to go to have a work ethic and be serious about your craft.
At times, Shorter’s pedal-to-metal approach causes Colbert to encourage him to drop the throttle.
The Gators’ season opener on Sept. 3 against defending Pac-12 champion Utah is five months away.
“I kind of have to slow him down and get him to take a bit of his body off on a day off,” Colbert said. “He always wants to go. He always tries to improve, which is a good thing. It’s a joy to be with him and to be a coach because it means something to him.
Shorter fits right into freshman coach Billy Napier’s plans to resurrect Florida after a lost season.
Shorter’s 41 catches for 550 yards and three touchdowns are highs among a group of returners with a lot to prove. He’s looking to improve on those numbers for the sake of the Gators and his NFL prospects.
Most considered Shorter a hot New Jersey prospect and ranked No. 1 among the 2018 wide receiver class.
But after two unproductive years at Penn State, Shorter transferred to UF. In 2020, he showed the occasional flash of brilliance as he waited his turn behind NFL first-round pass catchers Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney.
The quarterback’s inconsistency in 2021 hampered a Gators passing offense that finished a respectable sixth in the SEC with 27 touchdowns but led the league with 18 interceptions.
Shorter, however, has high hopes for second redshirt student Anthony Richardson, who struggled with injuries last season as Emory Jones’ backup.
“I love how calm he is in all situations,” Shorter said of the 19-year-old Richardson. “He knows what he’s doing. He tells people where to go, does the right checks, the right reads, and I see him really putting in the time and working to be that guy.
To become Richardson’s go-to guy in 2022, Shorter followed Colbert’s lead. A USC record holder and six-year NFL veteran, the 39-year-old focuses on the finer points of the position.
A receiver of Shorter’s stature, for example, often struggles to create separation with defenders or fails to take full advantage of his size.
“I’ve learned so much from him already and we’re only two weeks away from spring prom,” Shorter said. “Learning to control my body, like the top of my routes counting steps…really working on those jump balls, really going for the ball instead of letting it come my way.
“Just little things like that where you can improve on bigger enlargements.”
Shorter’s obsession with betterment runs in the family. Last season, Shorter revealed that his mother, Paula, threw a few hundred passes at him every morning before school.
These days Mom is back in New Jersey. While she rests her arm before heading back to Gainesville, her son continues to stride toward greatness — maybe even All-America status at the end of the season.
“I just want to be the best,” Shorter said. “I want my name under Pitts over there in the stadium. I feel like you just have to put in the time and do it every day, no matter how you feel.
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Edgar Thompson at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @osgators.