Georgia wide receiver Javon Wims (6) makes a catch over Notre Dame cornerback Nick Watkins (7) during the second half Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in South Bend, Ind. Georgia won 20-19.
Photo: Michael Conroy/AP
Photo: Michael Conroy/AP

Javon Wims takes unconventional route to joining UGA offense

Receiver Javon Wims is beginning to fulfill his physical promise. Two games in, he leads the team with five catches for 116 yards.

But it was a misplayed ball that could’ve put Wims in the fans’ doghouse. Just before Godwin’s snag Saturday in Georgia’s 20-19 victory against the Fighting Irish, Wims dropped a crucial second-down pass. He’s appreciative that Godwin bailed him out.

“I just misjudged it,” Wims said. “I should’ve caught it. … Thank God my boy Terry, he made it up with a great catch.”

In Year 2 at UGA, Wims hopes to be a go-to target for freshman quarterback Jake Fromm. That means hauling in all the passes in his vicinity, including the one he missed Saturday night.

“We just tell ourselves we have to make every play for him,” he said. “Any ball that’s up in the air we have to try to make it. It may not be perfect or it may be perfect. You just have to try and catch the ball for him, especially as a freshman. That boosts his confidence.”

Wims speaks with wisdom and clarity that’s rare with young athletes. Perhaps his last half-decade has a role in that.

Growing up a basketball player in Miami Gardens, Fla., Wims rediscovered football his senior year at Ed White High School in Jacksonville, Fla. He hadn’t played since his Pop Warner days.

He received one college offer – Elon, but he didn’t meet the required test score, according to his father – and ended up at NAIA Belhaven University. Wims was raw, four inches shorter, overcoming asthma and stuck in a Wing-T offense. Still, he felt he had the talent to be an NFL player and wanted to prove it.

The NFL aspirations largely were rooted from his father’s advice. Football wasn’t Wims’ first love, but his father, Roy, told him he was more unique to one sport than the other, and no stones should be left unturned.

“He just told me something that stuck with me,” Wims said. “There are a lot of (6-foot-4) point guards out there that do everything that you do, but there are not a lot of 6-4 receivers that can do what you can do.”

But Wims’ goal couldn’t be achieved at Belhaven, he decided. He fractured his foot six games into the season, then left the team and returned to Jacksonville. After a season away, Wims enrolled at Hinds Junior College in Raymond, Miss., a necessary step to revive his football life.

That decision immediately gave him some level of regret.

“I stepped out the door and I was like, ‘I don’t know where I’m at. I’m in the middle of fields and cows,’” Wims said. “I didn’t know where I was at, but at the same time I’m glad that happened because I learned a lot about myself.”

Wims developed as a receiver in Raymond. He realized his perceived potential with four multi-touchdown games in 2015. He caught at least six passes in five games, a far cry from his high school days.

“The coaches did a very good job there developing me at JUCO,” Wims said. “Especially my position coach, coach (Dwike) Wilson, he did an outstanding job with everything that he instilled in me. Coaches here just brought it out in me and picked up where he left off.”

Ranked among the best junior colleges in the nation, Wims received a scholarship offer from the Bulldogs around Thanksgiving. Two years later, he made up for his drop with a key 31-yard catch in South Bend, helping Georgia to its win. 

Wims has found the place he belongs. And he’s developed a rapport with friends Fromm and Godwin. So much that after a practice, he competed with Godwin to see who could replicate his end-zone catch the quickest.

It took about 10 attempts to declare a winner. But the result had Wims grinning.

“It was pretty hard,” Wims said. “We could have easily caught it with one hand, but to try to do it exactly. … Both of us (eventually) caught it. But I caught it before Terry.”

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