ATHENS – Remember the catch? It was the best one made in the College Football Playoff title game and one of the best of the season by Georgia’s Javon Wims.
And if you followed Wims and the Bulldogs throughout the 2017 season, you know that’s saying something.
It came on third-and-6 at the Alabama 26-yard line, and it resulted in a first down at the 10. Running down the left sideline, the 6-foot-4 Wims was well-covered on the play by Alabama cornerback Anthony Averett. But as so often happened whenever quarterback Jake Fromm targeted Wims on big plays, Fromm threw the pass high and slightly behind his tall receiver. And as Wims so often did, he went up high above his defender, snatched the ball out of the air and held onto it as he careened back down to earth.
Only in this case, Wims had to wrap one leg around Averett so that leg didn’t land out of bounds while twisting his body back inbounds. In the meantime, Wims was upended on the play and landed fully on his left shoulder. A official review of instant replay proved it to be a catch. Four plays later, Rodrigo Blankenship kicked a 27-yard field goal, and the Bulldogs took a 6-0 lead with 7:33 remaining in the second quarter.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, that would be the last catch Wims made in what seemed like a season-long highlight reel of receptions. Wims injured his left shoulder on the play. He stayed in the game for two more plays, the second of which he was targeted in the end zone. Alas, that pass was high and Wims came out of the game for good.
That may or may not have been a factor in the outcome – a 26-23 Alabama victory in overtime – but it couldn’t have helped as Georgia lost its No. 1 receiver in the biggest game of the season.
“Yeah, I’m over it now,” said Wims, who is in Atlanta training for the upcoming NFL draft. “I mean, you know, it’s done, so there’s nothing I can about it.”
While that chapter is over for Wims, many more await in what promises to be a budding professional career. Wims was invited to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., this weekend, but he had to pass pass as his recovery continues from what was determined to be a Grade 2 sprain of the AC joint in his left shoulder.
Wims, however, is not letting that slow down his preparation. He’s working with renowned trainer Chip Smith.
“My shoulder’s fine now,” Wims said. “There was no sense in going to the Senior Bowl and getting it banged up some more. So I’m not going. I’m just going to concentrate on getting ready for the combine.”
WHAT. A. CATCH. pic.twitter.com/Q8JRMt9uwn
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 9, 2018
Wims will have at least two more opportunities to prove himself to NFL scouts and executives. The first will come at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine March 2-5 in Indianapolis. Sometime after that, he’ll attend UGA’s pro day in Athens.
The NFL draft is scheduled for April 26-28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. In between, there will be whatever personal workouts that be arranged between Wims’ agent, Ryan Rubin of Atlanta’s RMI Athletics, and any NFL teams that show a particularly strong interest in Wims.
There’s expected to be a lot of interest in a 6-foot-4, 220-pound athlete with good speed and strong hands. He led the No. 2-ranked Bulldogs (13-2) with 45 catches for 720 yards and 7 touchdowns last season. He had 62 catches for 910 yards and 8 TDs in just two seasons in Athens.
“We’re getting really good feedback, and he’s already begun the interview process even not being [at the Senior Bowl],” Rubin said from Mobile Wednesday. “His phone has been ringing off the hook and, of course, he’ll have the combine for the real big interviews. But he’s getting a lot of attention, and I think teams are going to see he’s more than just a high-point catcher. They’re going to see they have a well-rounded receiver who’s going to give his all.”
Mock drafts generally have Wims rated among the top 15 receivers available and projections have him being selected anywhere from the third to fifth round. Wims said he is using the next several weeks to prove he’s worth a higher selection.
“That’s what the combine and pro day are for,” he said.
Whatever happens, it’s clear that Wims will fulfill his dream of becoming a professional football player. No matter how one looks at it, that’s an incredible accomplishment for a young man who was not playing football four years ago and working a part-time job at home in Jacksonville, Fla. He picked up football again at Hinds Community College in Raymond, Miss., earned a scholarship offer from Georgia and played his way into the Bulldogs’ No. 1 receiver role as a senior.
Wims is still not quite ready to reflect on how far he has come.
“I’m not a pro yet,” Wims said Wednesday. “I’m still living week to week, check to check. I haven’t really had time to sit down and process everything that has transpired. I’ve just been moving from one thing to the next and staying busy. I think I’ll be able to fully appreciate everything once I get drafted.”
We’ll have to wait to see when that will be. In the meantime, Wims will have his memories from the last year at Georgia.
The Bulldogs won their first SEC championship in 12 years, made it to the College Football Playoff for the first time in school history and came within an overtime touchdown pass of knocking off Alabama and claiming Georgia’s first national championship in 37 years.
“It was a great year,” Wims said. “It definitely was a huge step forward from my first year there. We did everything we preached and talked about, so it was a great year.”
The next one for Wims should be pretty good, too.