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At 5-foot-5, Champ Flemings is usually the smallest player on the football field.

So he’s more than used to hearing he’s too small to play major college football.

But come Friday night, Flemings could see himself out on the Reser Stadium turf as a starting wide receiver when Oregon State hosts Oklahoma State in the season opener for both teams. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

“I’m really blessed to be here and have this opportunity,” Flemings, who is listed as one of three starting receivers for the Beavers, said on Tuesday. “I’ve always been written off my whole life so it’s really nothing new to me. I just take that adversity and run with it and use it as fuel.”

Flemings, a redshirt sophomore, played in all 12 games last season and had five catches for 68 yards with a long of 40. He will also be out there for kickoff returns.

Starting is nice, but Flemings said to him “it’s more about just being put in a position to where I can do whatever is best to help the team and hopefully win a football game. That’s the most important to me but it does feel good.”

While being 5-5 for a receiver is often looked at as a curse, Flemings chooses to think the opposite.

“I’ve been this size my whole life so I’ve kind of had to adapt and learn how to use my size to my advantage, use my quickness and my speed,” he said. “Mostly it’s not about the height but just being quick, being fast, making guys miss in open space.”

While Flemings may be starting with senior Trevon Bradford unavailable to go for the opener with a foot injury that kept him out of training camp, he has certainly put in the work to earn his opportunity.

“He’s just a spark, and he’s come a long way,” offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren said. “It’s really a testament to his work ethic. He had an unbelievable offseason. I think there’s so much more detail in his game, he’s covering more ground.

“I think in the past he was more of a quick, side to side, pretty good with the ball in his hand (player) and now he’s able to be a vertical threat on the outside and we can put him inside and do a lot of things.”

Flemings, who said he prides himself on that versatility, did some self-evaluation of his game and recognized that he needed to work on his footwork, route-running, as well as reading the defense better so he could react and make adjustments.

He spent as much time as he could with his fellow receivers and quarterbacks working to improve those areas.

“It was kind of hard for him when he wasn’t playing a lot last year but all you can do when you are in that position is just make plays when you get the opportunity and I think he did that,” fellow receiver Isaiah Hodgins said. “I think he attacked the spring and this fall camp pretty hard. He’s finally getting what he deserves.”

Some of the work he put in was building a strong chemistry with starting quarterback Jake Luton so they are on the same page.

“It’s been a dynamic where we have to really kind of work extra timing and stuff like that because I am quicker in and out of my breaks than some of the bigger guys that we have in the room,” Flemings said. “… I think we’ve built a really good rapport with each other just building that trust that if I put the ball here, if I release it early, he trusts me to be able to go get balls. If he puts it out there deep, he trusts me to go get it. If he throws it early he trusts me to get in and out of my breaks to be able to track those balls down.”

While Flemings will have more opportunities to make plays on offense, he also embraces his role as a kickoff returner. Last season, Flemings returned 29 kicks for 608 yards with a long of 57.

He credits that experience for helping him show the coaching staff his potential.

“A lot of people come to college and think I’m going to go in, I’m going to start,” Flemings said. “But in reality special teams is a big part of getting on the field. For me it wasn’t something that was really new, I spent my whole life returning kicks, returning punts so I’ve always been in the returner position.

“So playing special teams for me was natural. It was something that I wanted to do, it wasn’t something that I was forced to do or role that I was kind of pushed into.”

With that said, what is better — catching a short pass and racing to the end zone for a touchdown or taking a kickoff to the house for a score?

“The kick for me is just explosive because potentially it might be the first play of the game, the first touch of the game,” Flemings said. “…I’m not opposed to catching a slant and taking it 60 or 70 (yards) to the house. I really like those plays too.

“But I think special teams is a part the game that gets (overlooked) a lot so if you’re able to create some explosive (plays) on special teams you can change the game that way.”

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Sports Editor

Sports editor of the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald