ATHENS — What Javon Wims does when it’s just him, a defender and a football floating through the air is a thing of athletic beauty.
In receiver lexicon, they call it “high-pointing” the ball. It’s an action in which a receiver makes sure to always catch the football at its highest possible apex whenever it’s coming his way in the face of tight coverage. It requires a combination of timing, body control, vertical leap and, of course, good hands.
It also helps to be tall. Wims, at 6-foot-4, is.
“When the ball is in the air, I just go attack it like a rebound, or an alley-oop,” said Wims, a longtime basketball player. “I just go attack the ball.”
It’s hard to say for sure, but there might not be a receiver in college football who catches the fade better than Wims. There certainly haven’t been many Bulldogs as proficient at it. Perhaps A.J. Green. Few others.
“I don’t know that I have seen anybody better at it,” Georgia senior tight end Jeb Blazevich said. “He does a spectacular job of that. It shows up day in and day out, especially on the film on Saturday.”
The Bulldogs don’t throw the ball a lot. Everybody knows that. But when quarterback Jake Fromm finds himself in a must-have situation, whether it be on third down or near the goal line, odds are good he’ll look Wims’ way.
Their specialty is the fade. Whether it’s to the right side or the left, Fromm simply lobs the ball in Wims’ general direction. The aim is for it to reach him at about 10 feet off the ground. The thinking is that only Wims is going to be able to get high enough for it. He always seems to come down with it.
“He’s done a good job of that,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “I think he’s improved immensely at attacking the ball and not letting the ball get into his body. He has really become a hands receiver, which is what you want. He does a good job in the 50-50 ball. He reacts, responds, snatches.”
Last week, Wims had a career-high 6 receptions to go with 83 yards against Kentucky, including a 27-yard touchdown. Through 11 games, the senior from Miami leads the team with 33 catches for 554 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Unofficially, he also leads Georgia’s receiving corps in “wow” receptions. He has hauled in all manner of unlikely catches. He almost never drops a ball that hits his hands.
Seeing Wims go high to pull in all sorts of passes has become almost passé to his teammates. They see it every day.
“The plays he’s making in games where people go, ‘Dang, that’s a good catch,’ he makes those same catches in practices every day,” Georgia tailback Sony Michel said. “All the receivers do. It’s crazy.”
That’s true. Wide receiver Terry Godwin has the catch of the year — and one of Georgia’s best in years — with his one-handed snare for a touchdown against Notre Dame on Sept. 9. Riley Ridley had an incredible pirouetting catch and toe-tap for a TD against Missouri on Oct. 14.
But Wims has made sensational catches almost routinely for the Bulldogs this season. Even some of his non-catches have been amazing.
Last week against Kentucky, he hauled in a pass from Fromm on the Wildcats sideline that appeared to be headed way out of bounds. With both feet just inside the chalk, Wims caught the ball with his long body and arms stretched nearly seven feet into the sideline. In the end, a video review concluded that he didn’t have full possession before hitting the ground. But it was far from conclusive.
“I’m going to be biased, but I thought it was a catch,” Michel said. “But those are big-time catches. … Javon is taking his play to the next level.”
At this point, it seems a pretty safe bet that Wims will get an opportunity to play professional football. And that’s saying something, considering his journey.
Wims didn’t even play football his sophomore and junior years in high school. He was concentrating on playing basketball instead.
It was his father, Roy Wims Jr., who encouraged Wims to return to the sport he’d played since he was 5 years old. He reasoned with his son that he had a lot better chance of making a way as a 6-4 athlete in football than basketball.
“He’s always been athletic,” his father said this week. “He’s 6-4 and has a vertical leap over 30 inches. I knew he’d be a good receiver. I’m very thankful he’s doing as well as he’s doing.”
But it wasn’t automatic. When Wims moved to Jacksonville from Miami to live with his father, he was in the district of Ed White High School. Wims didn’t realize until he went out for the team that the Commanders ran the wing-T.
Wims played dutifully for his school but didn’t get much action or notice from colleges. He ended up attending Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss., and playing Division III football for a year before an ankle injury cut his season short.
Wims went back home to Jacksonville to reassess his goals, then re-emerged at Hinds Community College in Raymond, Miss. There, Wims caught on fast. He caught 47 passes for 779 yards and 9 TDs in nine games and emerged as one of the top junior college prospects in America. The Bulldogs won a recruiting sweepstakes that came down to them and Miami.
Wims’ upward trajectory continued at Georgia. He played in all 13 games and ended up starting three as a junior and first-year transfer. He had 17 catches for 190 yards and finally scored his first touchdown against TCU in the Liberty Bowl.
Wims wasted no time in 2017, recording his first score in the first game on a fade against Appalachian State. He has at least 1 catch in every game this season and scored a touchdown in three of Georgia’s last four games heading into the regular-season finale at Georgia Tech.
“I’ve just got to give thanks to my coach, Coach [James] Coley,” Wims said. “We’ve spent countless hours working on my game, working on me as a student of football. I’m just proud of what he did for me. You know, we worked hard.”
Wims has come a long way from blocking in that wing-T at Ed White. And he also has come a long way from sweating out those last few credits he needed at Hinds to gain admission to Georgia. A communication studies major, he’s hoping to graduate with a UGA degree in May.
“It’s a blessing, coming from that far, struggling in junior college,” Wims said. “Now, being able to have a tremendous degree from a tremendous university like this, it’s a huge honor.”
Soaring to new heights, this one is.