Being a college athlete essentially means having two full-time jobs: student and athlete.

Adding a third full-time job to that seems crazy, if not impossible to pull off.

But McNeese State junior wide receiver Cyron Sutton did that in April when he became a father, welcoming daughter Zoey into the world. The instant she was mentioned after Wednesday morning's practice put a smile on his face.

Sutton was arguably McNeese's best playmaker on an otherwise unproductive offense in 2018; the New Orleans-native led the Cowboys in receptions (41), receiving yards (609) and tied for the lead in receiving touchdowns (3). He had his moments on special teams, leading the Cowboys in punt return yardage (142) and his 73-yard punt return for a score helped seal the win against Abilene Christian in October.

And while expectations remain high for Sutton going into the new season, it's possible that the offense could succeed by spreading the ball around to what could be a much more productive receiving corps that includes returners Trevor Begue, Nate Briscoe and Draysean Hudson, transfers Davion Curtis and Rhashid Bonnette, as well as true freshman Mason Pierce.

"Personally, I feel like we got the best in the conference," Sutton said of McNeese's wide receivers group. "We got a lot of guys that have speed, height, hands. We're pretty good."

While adjusting to a new coaching staff and new offense can be a challenge, it's nothing like the challenge that comes with being a new father. Add to that the rigors of being a student and Sutton admits it can be tough, but he's thankful for the help he gets.

"It's always hard," Sutton admitted. "But I got good coaches, good teammates that's always willing to help and (work with me). It's pretty good."

Sutton and everyone around him say since Zoey was born he has matured. She was seen at the McNeese Fan Fest and media day on Sunday and was a team favorite.

Curtis, who transferred from Tyler (Texas) Junior College at the start of 2019, said he sees the difference in Sutton and that it's been positive.

"He's matured a lot," Curtis said of Sutton. "Just by coming out and working every day. He finally found his purpose. He had his purpose with his family and stuff like that, but this is a bigger purpose now, he's a father. He has to do it for her, not for him anymore. He understands what's going on and he's becoming that leader that everybody wants him to be."

Even first-year head coach Sterlin Gilbert, who said he has high expectations for Sutton, has noticed the maturation. He not only said he believes it will pay dividends on and off the field, but that the team enjoys it when Zoey is around. It also helps add to the "la familia" mentality that Gilbert is implementing.

"He's been blessed with a beautiful young girl," Gilbert said. "It's been good to see him grow. That can instantly change people for the better, and he's definitely responded to that. It's put obviously more on his plate and the things he's got to understand and know in that situation. It's been really good, it's been positive (when) we've had her around the field house. It's been great to see her. We're excited about what Cyron's done and the way he's handled it."

Life for Sutton is about to crank up and get even busier with the start of classes on Monday and the team's preparations for the first regular-season game against Southern University on Aug. 31. But he has his who, what, and why and another clear motivation to perform well this season and he loves her.

"Honestly, it's a blessing," Sutton said. "She puts a smile on my face every day. She's the reason I'm out here grinding hard, trying to get it."

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