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February 10, 2014

Coaches Corner: Javonte Bagley

Javonte Bagley never stepped on the gridiron as a football player. He was a basketball star and had no intentions on playing football. Little did he know what kind of wide receiver he would become. In just a little over two years, Bagley went from a basketball player that never played a down of football to a Louisville wide receiver.

CardinalSports.com talked to Vero Beach High School head coach Lenny Jankowski, who coached Bagley during his only two years as a football player.

"My first day as the Vero Beach head coach I walked the campus and just tried to get a feel for the better looking athletes that weren't playing football," said Jankowski, who started coaching Vero Beach in 2011. "I recognized some of the better looking basketball players and really went after Javonte pretty hard to come out. He was dead set on sticking with basketball."

"He came out the next spring and from day one we said that this kid has the potential to be better than most anyone we've ever coached. Just the length that he has and the pull away speed - those kinds of things."

Bagley's first year on the football field went extremely well. He caught 39 balls for 550 yards and seven touchdowns.

"He didn't even play when he was young. So it was all very new to him and just to see him pick it up as easy as he did - it came very natural to him. We knew we had a pretty talented kid so he was able to start for us as a junior. We're one of the larger high schools out there so it's not easy just to walk out there and get a starting spot, but he really worked hard."

"I definitely think that his best football is still ahead of him. I can't think of a better place for him than the University of Louisville."

Vero Beach runs a wide open spread offense under Lenny Jankowski. The transition from Jankowski's offense to Bobby Petrino's offense should be an easy transition for 6-foot-3, 180-pound pass catcher.

"I think perfect," Jankowski said about the fit for Bagley at Louisville. "We talked about it prior to his (Louisville) commitment and I told him, 'if you're looking for a place to flourish and have all of the resources you need to accomplish anything you want to accomplish in this game, then everything will be at your fingertips at Louisville.' I think he's up to the challenge and I couldn't think of any other better places for him to go to maximize his potential."

Just about every school that watched Bagley practice during the spring evaluation period of 2013 offered Bagley on the spot.

"He went from a relative unknown, to getting really hot, then dying off a little bit. To his credit, he's done a lot of good work on and off the field."

Bagley committed to Bowling Green in mid-January after a few BCS schools slowed down in recruiting him. Jankowski, who dealt closely with his recruiting process, summarized the last few weeks in a whirlwind of a recruitment for Bagley.

"Javonte had a great visit at Bowling Green. He visited with one of our other players, Will Dawkins. They were up there for the weekend of the MAC championship game. Both of my players had several different BCS offers at the time, but they're the best of friends and I think were kind of intrigued with possibly playing college football together. That was the only school at the time that had offered them both."

"When Louisville came talking to Javonte, he was still committed to Bowling Green and it weighed on him pretty heavy. Coach Buckley called me on the phone and asked me where he stood on the situation. From my viewpoint, I was like, 'I don't want to muddy the kid's head unless you guys are serious.' Things got more and more serious and Javonte and I had a talk and he talked about it pretty heavy about it with his family. He decided it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. At that point or shortly thereafter, he had an opportunity to talk to Coach Petrino, and that went really well. He also talked to the receivers coach, and I think they all got pretty excited about it. It kind of took off from there."

Bagley committed to Louisville just two days before signing day. To hear what wide receivers coach Lamar Thomas had to say about Bagley - Rivals.com subscribers can watch here.



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