Courtland Sutton and his friends called one of their favorite games "Throw 'Em Up Smack 'Em," and Sutton was a natural.
In the game — some variation of which is played in schoolyards across the country — someone throws a ball high in the air to a waiting mass, and a person in the group comes down with it and proceeds to try to avoid tackles to score. For Sutton, this game and others they enjoyed during P.E. or recess, like Jackpot or 500, played to his strengths.
Ever since he was young, he'd been considered tall for his age, and in the realm of sports, it could provide a significant edge. The ball would go up, all the kids would leave their feet and as Sutton learned how to nail his timing, he could top most of his peers.
At the time, it was a skill that simply made him better at a kid's game. After two or so decades, though, Sutton can look back on it and see that understanding how to use his size to his advantage shaped what would become a career in the NFL as one of the league's leading receivers.
"I think it stems from, as a kid, playing a lot in recess," Sutton says. "… Stuff like that, I feel like definitely helped play a part in that. And then I always just wanted to be a guy that was able to make those big plays."