Javon Wims was a reserve receiver at an NAIA school in 2013, and he didn’t play football at all last year. Yet he committed this month to play for UGA.
Does that make sense? It should not.
Wims only had one scholarship offer coming out of high school in 2013 and yet he produced four multi-touchdown games this season for Hinds Junior College in Mississippi. ESPN rates him as the No. 3 junior college receiver in America for 2016.
The Florida native has only played in 19 football games since 2009. That’s about 2 1/2 seasons over a seven-year span. In spite of that, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder looks like the most physically ready of UGA’s four 2016 commitments at receiver to start in the SEC. The 21-year-old plans to enroll early, and will have two years of eligibility.
What are the odds of that? Back in high school, he set his heart on the NFL. That’s despite overcoming asthma and not a single offer from a major program.
“I’ve been playing football since I was 5,” Wims said. “I skipped out on it in high school and only played one year. But I felt I had a bunch of raw talent. I felt under the right coach and right tutelage I could become an exceptional player and have the opportunity to play in the NFL. I believed in my skills. I believed God had a plan. I just had to be patient.”
It would be a farce to label his road to the SEC as conventional.
“I found my own way,” Wims said. “Just thinking about it. I’m very grateful and very lucky and very blessed.”
Boom or bust year
Wims arrived at Hinds Community College in January. He didn’t immediately thrill the coaching staff, but the learning curve and soggy conditions during spring drills hindered that.
“Yet we saw he was a worker in the weight room and he was clearly an athlete,” Hinds head coach Gene Murphy said. “He’s got a strong work ethic and that goes a long way when you have the talent to go with it.”
When Wims committed this month, he told DawgNation that UGA receivers coach Bryan McClendon said he’d start this season if he was on the team. He shredded defenses at Hinds with four 100-yard games and another five contests in which he caught at least six passes.
“He’s an intense guy,” Murphy said. “The only guy I’d compare him to in all my years here would be Fred Smoot.”
Smoot, a feisty defensive back, left Hinds to star at Mississippi State. He was drafted by the Washington Redskins and had a productive NFL career.
“I never once saw this young man back off from the work it takes to be great,” Murphy said. “I’d be shocked if he doesn’t compete right away at Georgia.”
Wims was a middle school football standout but had early basketball dreams. He only played his senior year at Ed White High School in Jacksonville, Fla., and the school ran a run-oriented Wing-T offense. That run-first, run-second and run some more style didn’t allow for many passing highlights.
“I stood out more on defense at safety than I did at receiver,” Wims said.
There was one college offer coming out of high school, to Elon (N.C.) University. According to his father, his grades were fine but he didn’t make the required test score. He was also four inches shorter than he is today.
That’s how he landed at NAIA Belhaven University. He caught seven passes for 55 yards in six games.
“I played in like three games and I got hurt,” Wims said. “I had a fractured ankle and missed the rest of the season.”
He left Belhaven because he didn’t see himself reaching the NFL from there. So he quit and went home to Jacksonville.
“That was hard,” Wims said. “I was raised to never quit or give up on anything, but my heart was not in it there. I wanted to play in the NFL. That was my dream and I wanted to be somewhere that would push me.”
Wims worked two jobs during the 2014 football season. The first was at a gymnastics center. He spotted budding gymnasts and helped them work on routines. He also worked in the mall at an urban and a designer clothing store.
He continued to send out highlight tapes. He visited junior colleges. He hoped for a chance at nearby Jacksonville University, which does not offer athletic scholarships, but that never materialized. Georgia Military College also passed on him.
“I had to send my high school highlights to try and find a spot at any school in the nation,” Wims said. “I didn’t have a college highlight at Belhaven.”
He began to develop physically. His weight zoomed to 200 pounds and he also grew at least two inches.
“I heard a whole bunch of ‘Nos’ along my way,” Wims said. “But I knew I just needed to find one coach to say yes.”
Wims credits two men that never allowed him to give up. Roy Wims, his father, was the first. His mother, Cleola Mosley, works as a corrections officer. Those two did not marry, but she wanted her son to live with his father during his formative years. So he moved from South Florida to Jacksonville.
Wims said he was a budding basketball and tennis star in his youth, but he lost his focus and did not maximize his potential in either sport. He described it as “wasted talent.” That’s why he is always asking his son what he sees himself doing in five years.
“I had my own dreams, but I didn’t take advantage of my talent,” Roy Wims said. “I was going to do whatever was necessary to take care of him and make sure he had the ability to chase his dreams. That’s why I stayed on Javon so hard.”
His other motivator is the offensive coordinator at American Heritage High School in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Mario Perez coached Wims when he was 12 years old.
“Why did I believe in Javon?” Perez said. “First of all he’s a great kid. The second thing was I got to coach him when he was 12 years old. Go to You Tube. Search for Lauderdale-PPO scrimmage. Watch the plays he made as a 12-year-old. You’ll see that and say what 12-year-old does that?”
Wims spent many nights at his house. Perez now coaches for the same high school program which has sent Sony Michel, Isaiah McKenzie and Marshall Morgan to UGA. He put in a call to the coaches at UGA. He also advised Wims to attend UGA’s all-star prospect camp in July.
Wims stood out, but the offer didn’t come. McClendon wanted to see what he could do against junior college competition. Wims was superb at the prospect camp, but that was largely against high school prospects.
When he needed it, Perez was there, too. He kept telling him how good he could be. He used those YouTube highlights as evidence.
“I saw how much fun I was having and he kept telling me how good I was,” Wims said. “It meant a lot.”
Thinking about 2016
Roy Wims is a proud father. There’s not a soul in his neighborhood that doesn’t know about his son’s achievements. That’s both the football and the fact his son has never been in any trouble of any sort. He also believes in tough love and a swift kick in the rear when necessary.
He might be happy, but the look on his face would be cold. That would change when asked what it will be like to see his son line up at UGA next fall. Anna Wims, his stepmother, is recovering from breast cancer. He’s known her since he was three years old. That has been another motivating factor for him. He wants to retire his parents one day and his first game in the SEC will be a special moment for his family.
“That will be a big day,” he said. “I’ll have a hard time keeping my eyes dry. I see myself shedding a tear or two and I will be hard not to cry seeing my son play football in that big stadium.”
Perez, who has coached 5-star prospects, summed up what UGA is getting.
“He’s an uncoverable receiver one-on-one,” Perez said. “He has the speed to get by you and the size and strength to muscle through you. He’s got phenomenal moves. The second he walks onto the field at Georgia, he will make an impact. The learning curve at Georgia will just be catching up to the playbook. The University of Georgia got themselves a 5-star person and a 5-star player. They just don’t know it yet.”
There are two highlight videos of Javon Wims below. The first is from this season at Hinds Community College. The second are those aforementioned YouTube highlights from when he was 12 years old.
Jeff Sentell covers UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.