Nobody's smile shined brighter when Kentucky held its recent media day than Javess Blue. The junior college receiver with perhaps the most appropriate name ever sewn onto the back of a UK jersey could not hide his excitement.
"I'm just so happy to be on the field," Blue said. "As soon as I stepped off the plane, I was like, ‘Somebody throw me a football.' I couldn't wait to get here."
The journey to Lexington was far from routine for the 6-foot, 190-pound Blue. The Lake Wales, Fla., native was originally headed to Texas Tech, but had to take the juco route to Butler Community College in Kansas to get his academic profile in order.
After two years at Butler, he developed into one of the nation's elite juco prospects. As a sophomore, he led the Grizzlies with 65 catches for 1,064 yards and 12 touchdowns, ranking in the top 10 nationally in each category.
Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown and running backs coach Chad Scott, who had helped recruit Blue when they were on the Texas Tech staff, stayed in touch and made the player one of their priority recruiting targets when they joined Mark Stoops staff at UK.
That relationship was the big key when Blue decided to become a Wildcat.
"It wasn't playing time or a chance to start or anything like that. Everybody tells you that," Blue said. "… The biggest thing was the bond I had with the coaches from Texas Tech. They've been like a family to me, and I decided I was going to follow my family wherever they went."
It wasn't a simple matter of signing with the Cats and jumping on a plane to the Bluegrass State, though. Blue still had some academic hurdles to clear before he could officially report to UK. While many of his new teammates spent most of the summer working out in Lexington, he was still in Kansas wrapping up his classwork and crossing his fingers.
"It's something I really had to work for," Blue said. "I think that shows my determination."
According to Blue, the journey has forged a new attitude that he hopes will help him become a great player at Kentucky.
"It took a while to get here, so I want to make it count," he said. "I expect big things of myself. I want to be the best receiver who's ever played here. That's my goal. You have to set the bar high for yourself."
Confidence apparently won't be an issue. Asked if he was ready to test himself against some of the nation's top defenders in the Southeastern Conference, Blue said: "I expect a good challenge."
He paused and flashed his wide smile again before adding, "But they're going to have to work against me, too."
Blue should get an opportunity to put up some big numbers in Brown's version of the "Air Raid" offense. Kentucky had only four scholarship players at receiver following spring practice and some attrition from the program. Players like Blue and fellow newcomers Ryan Timmons, Jeff Badet and Alex Montgomery have a golden opportunity to play a lot in their first season with the Cats.
Since he missed working out with the team during informal drills, he'll have to play catch-up with his quarterbacks and in learning the new offense.
"I have a pretty good idea of the plays," Blue said. "Coach sent me a sheet of the plays to look at the night I got here. They're not too complicated. It's a lot like my offense at juco. It's really all about getting the signals down now to know which play he's calling."
He caught the head coach's eye with his performance during the first three days of camp.
"It was very important to get Javess in here," Stoops said. "He looked very good. He's going to help us. To what extent, we'll see. But I thought, just seeing him out there without being here this summer and not knowing much about the offense and all that, just seeing him move around and catch the ball, he looked very smooth. He can help us, first impression."