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You want to know the secret to Cody Gustafson's crazy catches?

We all remember them.

Those ones when he stretched his body like Gumby, a favorite fictional friend? Or how about the ones when he could've been accurately compared to a performer for Cirque du Soleil?

And of course, those really incredible ones, where he induced a stadium-wide sigh after everyone in Memorial Park had been holding a collective breath?

The secret to Shippensburg wide receiver Cody Gustafson, the Public Opinion Football Player of the Year: He has giant hands.

"Well, I was blessed with some pretty big hands," Gustafson said. "I was able to palm a girls basketball by the time I was in third grade."

"Cody really does have big hands," Greyhound coach Eric Foust said. "He's a 3-XL glove kid, and we're talking about long fingers, too."

It's more than just that, of course.

For years, Gustafson has been brought up in the Shippensburg football family. His father, Kevin, is the Hounds' offensive coordinator; and his older brother, Tyler, is the reigning P.O. Player of the Year.

Gustafson also works pretty hard.

"He spends a lot of time with the jugs machine (which throws the football toward a receiver in drills)," Foust said. "He spends a lot of time catching the ball. Once you master catching the normal ones, those crazy catches become easier to make. I don't know if he ever thought there was a ball thrown to him that he couldn't catch."

The list of Gustafson's reasons for success doesn't end there, though.

It's clear, both as a wide receiver and a cornerback, Gustafson has an eye for the ball. He knows where to be, when to be there and how to get there; and he's surrounded by like-minded Greyhounds.

"That's something I've taken for granted, I think," Gustafson said. "Look at Cameron (Tinner). I don't know if anyone knows more than he knows defensively. He can sniff things out more than anyone. We've been blessed with a really high football IQ over the past couple years."

Another big factor for Gustafson was his shared workload with running back Adam Houser in the latter half of the season. Houser, a sophomore who surpassed the 1,000-yard mark this year, started with just 352 rushing yards through six games. Over the next seven, he ran for 859 yards and six touchdowns.

"With his ability to do that, it took some of the pressure off me," Gustafson said. "Teams were still double-teaming me, but whenever they did that, Adam was able to find holes. His vision is incredible, and I think he has some cheat codes from Madden because that spin move he has, that's incredible."

For all these reasons and many more, Gustafson had a senior season to remember. He finished the year, in which Ship advanced to its first-ever District 3 Class 4A championship, with 84 catches for 1,577 yards (18.8 average) and 15 touchdowns. Gustafson set Shippensburg career records in catches (170) and receiving yards (2,862).

And although most of the glory for Gustafson has been on the offensive side of the ball, his defensive resume isn't too shabby. This season, he had 19 total tackles, four interceptions and seven pass break-ups.

"At corner, I just go attack the ball," Gustafson said. "Because I'm a receiver, my mindset is that I gotta go get the ball. That translates on defense, because you just get a nose for the ball."

Foust said, "I think he's a very special talent. He has a tremendous grasp of everything that goes on on the football field. Watching him develop has been quite the pleasure, and he's as good as a kid as I've ever coached."

And, of course, having those giant hands doesn't hurt.

Cody Gustafson file

School: Shippensburg

Grade: Senior

Position: Wide receiver/cornerback

Size: 6-foot-2, 175 pounds

Parents: Kevin and Megan Gustafson

Other interests: Cody also plays basketball for the Greyhounds, and is on the track & field team (jumps, sprints). He also enjoys playing Clash of Clans.

Surprising fact: Kevin, Cody and his older brother, Tyler, all threw touchdown passes on their first varsity attempts. Younger brother Nick threw a TD on his on second attempt.

Favorite teams: Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Lakers

Athletes most admired: Kobe Bryant, Antonio Brown

Statistics: This season, Gustafson had 1,577 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns on 84 catches ... Defensively, he had 19 tackles, 4 interceptions and 7 pass break-ups ... Gustafson now holds the school records for career catches (170) and career receiving yards (2,862). ... He was also named the Mid Penn Colonial Division Offensive MVP.

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