An undrafted wide receiver took the Jaguars' training camp by storm in 2014. Allen Hurns worked his way up from afterthought to key contributor in a matter of months during his first summer in the NFL.
Just one year after signing a four-year, $40 million deal, Hurns is seeing another undrafted wide receiver turn heads in practice.
Keelan Cole has consistently made big plays throughout training camp and offered up highlights during two preseason games. He produced a 97-yard touchdown reception in the preseason opener against the New England Patriots and was able to return a punt for 31 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Kentucky Wesleyan alum is doing everything he can to earn a roster spot, much like Hurns did as an overlooked, undrafted rookie.
"He's been impressive since day one," Hurns said on Tuesday after practice. "He's been making plays. Not just normal plays, it's been plays that have grabbed everyone's eyes. He is doing a tremendous job right now. Also, with the punt return he had in the game [against the Buccaneers], his value is just going up, all the things he can do."
Unlike Cole, Hurns didn't have a template for success on the roster when he joined the Jaguars. Former New York Giants and current Chicago Bears wide receiver Victor Cruz was the success story most undrafted wide receivers looked to rewrite at the time.
The 6-foot-1, 194-pound rookie is now being compared to Hurns. However, the veteran wide receiver can also see the similarities between Cole and Cruz.
"I don't like to put people in the same category, but the Victor Cruz thing," Hurns said. "When he came in, he was doing everything as far as punt return, kick return and catching passes. Keelan has done a tremendous job of making plays and he's been consistent with it. That's a guy that's going to raise a lot of attention in this league."
Before he can stand out in the league, Cole has to make the Jaguars' roster. Cole currently ranks fifth in the league with 128 receiving yards in the preseason.
If he can continue to produce big plays over the next two weeks, Cole could be joining Hurns in the lineup on Sundays.
From there, he can build his own legacy like Cruz and Hurns have done in recent years. Instead of drawing comparisons to them, he can produce his own path for future undrafted wide receivers to follow.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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