ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Kasai Farris is wearing No. 3 for St. Cloud State for a reason.
After a redshirt season of learning behind former slot receiver Damon Treat, the 5-foot-7, 160-pound Farris is trying to emulate his game after the former standout who used to wear No. 3.
After not making an impact in the first three weeks of the season for the Huskies, Farris had four catches for 36 yards in a 37-31 loss to Upper Iowa on Sept.
27. Farris looked a lot like Treat when he turned bubble screens into a fast-paced adventure on his four catches.
— Kasai Farris
“Damon was a big, big help to me since we played the same position last year,” Farris said. “I can’t thank him enough for working with me last year. We’ve done hill training and route training drills together since I got here. He taught me how to run a route properly.
“I’m wearing No. 3 in honor of him. I want to model my game after him. I told him that I want everybody to forget that he wore this number. We still talk all the time. He pushes me. I want to accomplish more than he did, which was a lot.”
After Farris’ first reception last week, he jumped with excitement. He had achieved his dream of contributing to a college football team.
“I was absolutely pumped,” he said. “It was a surreal feeling that it was finally happening. This is what I had played for. I’ve wanted to make a catch in a college game since I was 5 years old. I got the chance to showcase my skills. I know what I could do.
“I was so excited that I got mad at myself because I thought I should have scored on that play.”
Farris was one of three young receivers who received more playing time last week. True freshman receiver Brett Wainwright had three catches for nine yards and true freshman receiver JT Butler had a catch for 35 yards.
St. Cloud State (1-3 NSIC, 1-3 overall) used Farris last week how they used Treat in the previous four years. Farris caught swing passes from quarterback Nate Meyer called bubble screens while using his speed to his advantage.
Farris came in last year with 4.43-second speed in the 40-yard dash. He thinks that he’s faster now.
“I want to go as low as I can in the 40,” Farris said. “I’m a little guy, so a lot of defenders try and put big hits on me. That doesn’t work because I’m so low to the ground. When they throw their body into me, I can bounce off and keep going. Speed is my biggest weapon and I always try and use that to my advantage.”
St. Cloud State head coach Scott Underwood said he and his coaching staff wanted to get different routes put into the offensive package last week. Before the Upper Iowa game, the Huskies hadn’t been running many bubble screens.
“It was fun to watch Kasai last week. He has quick acceleration,” Underwood said. “When he gets the ball in his hands, he can spread people out fast. He got some blocks and used them to his advantage against Upper Iowa. We’re pleased with where he’s at. The future looks bright for him.”
Farris took a roundabout way to get to St. Cloud State. He was born in New Jersey, but grew up with his mother in Philadelphia. They moved to an Atlanta suburb to get him a better education and more of a chance to get noticed playing football.
After his junior season when he was a 130-pound blocking back, his mom, Tamika, knew she had to change things up to get him noticed. She had a friend who coached football at St. Jude Educational Institute in Montgomery, Alabama. The Farris family moved there and Kasai quickly became the school’s starting running back.
— Scott Underwood
He became a Class A Alabama All-State selection during fall 2012. He finished with 137 carries for 1,400 yards with 18 touchdowns. The first TD he scored came on a 92-yard run in the second game of the season.
The funny thing was, Farris almost gave up on football after his junior season. His mother convinced him to give it one last try in Alabama.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without her,” he said.
The Farris family also signed up for a recruiting service called “Street Light.” As soon as his clips were uploaded to YouTube, he started getting messages from all over the country. The school that stayed the most in touch was St. Cloud State.
“Nobody wanted a 5-6, 130-pound blocking back after my junior year,” Farris said. “My highlights were sent out all over the country and then my phone started blowing up with emails every two seconds. I had to take calls during class sometimes.
“After we filtered through the good and bad schools, I figured out that St. Cloud was the right place for me.”
Farris formed an unlikely friendship with his freshman roommate last year. Defensive lineman Gabe Eggebrecht, a native of Brookings, South Dakota, and Farris created a tight bond during their redshirt years.
Eggebrecht was excited to see Farris make a difference on the field Sept. 27.
“We’ve been side by side for the past year,” Eggebrecht said. “I have nothing bad to say about Kasai. He’s a team player and is always keeping people up. He works hard and never takes a play off. He’ll do anything for you off the field.
“I was super proud of him last week. I was glad to see it happen for him. I knew he wanted to get out there more. He busted a few plays out there. When he’s in space, it’s hard to tackle him. He’s getting a chance to prove what he can do.”
Farris has adjusted to Minnesota as well, outside of the winters.
“I think it’s freezing here,” he said with a smile. “I wish St. Cloud was in Georgia, but it’s not. But I would still make the same decision in coming here. I don’t regret it at all.
“It was hard for me when I got here, but now I’ve adjusted. Everybody has welcomed me with open arms. This is family to me now.”