LOGAN — Utah State wide receiver Chris Stallworth is no stranger to big games — in fact he welcomes them.
In his first career start against Arizona State three games into his freshman year, Stallworth hauled in four balls for 61 yards.
"I wasn't expecting to start," Stallworth said. "Coach (Bob) Cole put me in there because he felt I played better in practice during the week than the other receivers. I got in there and performed."
But it still can get better.
Stallworth went on to catch 26 balls for 289 yards and one touchdown in 2000. His best game was against North Texas — nine catches for 62 yards.
His sophomore year was the best of his career with 33 catches for 384 yards and four touchdowns.
Playing behind current St. Louis Rams wide out Kevin Curtis, who has 74 catches for 1,258 yards and nine TDs, Stallworth accumulated just 17 catches for 231 yards and three scores last year.
He had six catches against Utah and one each against Nebraska, BYU and New Mexico. His one catch against New Mexico was a 32-yard touchdown catch on the final play of the game to send the game into overtime. Utah State eventually won, 45-44.
He didn't make trip to Iowa or Boise State because of a bad hamstring.
This year, he's ready to step up and accept the role of the leader of the wide receiver corps.
"With Curtis out, it was pretty hard. He's a big-time receiver and he made big play," Stallworth said. "Right now I'm playing his position and I need to fill in where he left off."
He started off with a bang with six catches for 113 yards and a touchdown in Utah State's 40-20 loss to Utah last week.
"Chris Stallworth is a young man that, in a quiet way, has really done a lot for us," Utah State coach Mick Dennehy said. "We all felt like going into this season we had some guys that were going to be hard to replace in terms of productivity."
Stallworth, according to Dennehy, caught the vision of his potential last year and he's been working hard to achieve it.
"I think he's done a great job this past year of getting himself ready for his senior season," Dennehy said. "I think every single day he's worked harder. He's relished the opportunity of being the leader of that group. He's gotten himself stronger and he's become a more physical player."
At 6-foot-3, 214 pounds and with good speed, gives Aggie opponents a different look than Curtis, who is 5-11, 185. Now it's Dennehy's job to get Stallworth in the right place.
"We try to put a guy out there that can take advantage of one-on-one coverage," he said. "We feel like with his experience and his strength, he's that kind of guy."
If Stallworth's game against Utah serves as an indication of his potential, there are still better things to come.
"It's nice to see all that work pay off his senior season," Dennehy said. "It's early yet, but I think Chris is going to get better and better."