Accolades are one thing, but game film is another. In the case of receiver Dean Patterson, all it took was one catch to draw interest from FIU assistant coach Drew Davis.
During a visit at Steinbrenner High School (Lutz, FL), Davis was targeting former three-star pro-style quarterback Haden Carlson, but soon became aware of Patterson.
Patterson, a junior at the time, took an unofficial visit to FIU alongside Carlson, and continued building his relationship with Davis.
“The campus down there is amazing. It’s nice, and I love a college town,” Patterson told 305 Sports. “Coach Davis was one of the only coaches who loved me and made me feel appreciated.”
On the field, Patterson lit up the stat sheet while catching passes from Carlson. He recorded 58 receptions for 847 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior, accomplishing his school’s single-season reception and receiving yards record, along with the career reception record. He added 715 kick return yards and two touchdowns.
“That’s my boy. It was easy. He put the ball on the money all the time. We were unstoppable,” Patterson said.
FIU head coach Butch Davis has compared Carlson to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Who does Patterson think Carlson resembles?
“I compare him to a Tom Brady because he’s just smart, he knows what to do and the footballs he throws are perfect,” he said.
Patterson, who was unranked by 247Sports, never had his recruitment take off. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder garnered his first offer from Southern Mississippi as a junior. His senior campaign earned him offers from Warner University, The Citadel and the University of Findlay.
As for FIU, which signed two receivers in the class of 2020, they gave Patterson a preferred walk-on offer. Ultimately, he moved out to Ohio to play DII at Findlay.
“I do believe he was a DI player out of high school,” Rob Patterson, the quarterbacks coach at Steinbrenner and his father, said. “His recruiting was late for some reason, but I believe everyone has their own journey.”
With the coronavirus pandemic pushing the DII football season to the spring, mixed in with being over 1,000 miles away from home, Patterson’s tenure at Findlay was short-lived, as he entered the transfer portal in January.
“It sucked,” Patterson said. “I was eager to get on the field and I hated taking that year off. It made me work a lot harder in the weight room and made me want to become better at my craft.”
The transfer portal has become an open marketplace for college players around the country. Every year, hundreds of players enter their name into the portal looking for a better opportunity, but for all the supply, there’s only so much demand.
However, Patterson played his cards right. He reached out to the coaches he had been in contact with in the past, and rekindled his relationship with Davis.
“I’ve always had a great relationship with Drew Davis,” Patterson said. “I would text him wishing him luck at his games this past season, and once the season was over, I texted him saying that I wanted to become a great part of his program.”
Patterson’s time in the transfer portal lasted a mere 19 days, as he committed to FIU on February 10.
“I told my family that this is the place where I want to be,” Patterson said. “It’s perfect for me already because I’ve been to the campus, I spoke to the head coach during my unofficial visit, the starting quarterback is my best friend from high school and Drew Davis seemed like a good advocate for me.”
With the departure of JJ Holloman, the highly touted Georgia transfer, FIU is searching for an experienced receiver. That role will likely be filled by senior Shemar Thornton, FIU’s top receiver in 2019, as he’s set to return from injury. Aside from Holloman, FIU’s 2021 spring roster shows that every receiver that caught a pass last season is still a part of the team.
The Panthers have added receiver talent through the 2021 recruiting class, signing FCS All-American Tyrese Chambers, three-star Artez Hooker and Jay Barry Jr.
Larry Blustein, who’s been covering South Florida high school football for 50 years, has high praise on Patterson.
“Here is someone who plays this game with plenty of passion,” Blustein said. “His ability to make the tough catches is what many college coaches loved about his game. Certainly fits the offensive scheme that FIU runs. Solid addition to the program.”
Patterson, who’s set to enroll on May 10, has a lot of catching up to do after not having played in a game for over a year.
“Obviously, it’s a new environment, but I want to be able to dominate anyone who’s in front of me and I want to outwork whoever’s next to me, Patterson said. “I feel like I can be much better than what I am now, and I’m trying to get there now. I just want people to know that I’m not playing around. I want to go 10-0 this season, I want to win the conference.”
Off the field, Patterson, who collected a 3.8 GPA in high school, is excited for the academic opportunities provided at FIU.
“I want to be able to earn my master’s in Sports Management before I graduate,” he said. “If my plan of going to the NFL doesn’t work out, I want to be able to find a place to coach at.”
As for his athletic abilities, Patterson’s father is excited for what’s to come.
“Dean is a solid, humble and hard-working player who hates to lose,” he said. “His winning attitude is contagious and FIU will be getting a great receiver and a return player who wants to win.”