DAVIE, Fla. – Jerry Jeudy and Trevon Grimes – both ranked among the top 10 wide receivers in the nation – are rivals now, but they were once part of the same backfield.
“I grew up with (Jeudy),” said Grimes, who now plays for St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale) and is ranked No. 1 by Rivals.com. “It’s funny. In Little League, neither of us played receiver. We played running back, and we were pretty good.”
They still are, and there’s a slight chance they could be teammates once again next year.
Jeudy, a 6-1, 180-pound Deerfield Beach senior who is ranked No. 25 among all players at any position by ESPN.com, committed last month to the University of Alabama.
Grimes has Alabama among his handful of finalists but lists Ohio State as his leader. He is scheduled to announce Aug. 24.
Alabama has already had tremendous success in Florida with five first-round picks coming from the Sunshine State to the Crimson Tide since the Nick Saban era began in 2007.
South Florida receivers have been particularly good to the Tide.
Amari Cooper, who played at Miami Northwestern, signed with Alabama in 2012, became an All-American in 2014 and a first-round pick and a Pro Bowl player last year.
Calvin Ridley, who played at Monarch High – he was Jeudy’s teammate there for one year – was a USA TODAY Sports’ Freshman All-American in 2014 and a national champion in 2015.
If Jeudy honors his commitment and signs with Alabama, that would make three highly ranked receivers in six years who have made the move from South Florida to Tuscaloosa.
Jeudy credits an Alabama native – Julio Jones – with inspiring this Florida-to-Alabama migration.
“Probably Amari saw Julio do it, and (Cooper) thought he could do it,” Jeudy said. “Calvin saw ‘Coop’ do it, and Calvin thought he could do it. And I think I can do it now.
“Everybody from South Florida, the receivers, they see Alabama, and they think they could do stuff up there.”Jeudy and Grimes, although they are longtime friends, carry themselves in a different manner.
Grimes is a people person, easily engaging reporters in conversation. Jeudy, who is of Haitian descent but a Fort Lauderdale native, is soft spoken and uninterested in hype.
A case in point occurred recently at the Miami Dolphins Media Day at Nova Southeastern University. Grimes had no qualms about making the case as to why his team, St. Thomas Aquinas, should be ranked as the No. 1 team in the Preseason Super 25 and a national title contender.
“We are the team to beat in the country,” he said. “We have phenomenal coaches, phenomenal players and a phenomenal school. No other school in the country can match Aquinas pride.”
Later, Jeudy, quietly waiting to be interviewed, sat a few feet away from four American Heritage (Plantation) defensive backs.
The Heritage DBs, ranked among the best groups in the country, were asked what receiver would be the biggest challenge for them to cover. Jeudy’s name was brought up as a would-be test.
“Too easy,” Heritage defensive back Will Allen III said.
Allen’s teammates laughed uproariously, but Jeudy had virtually no reaction.
“I don’t hear none of that,” said Jeudy, unbothered.
The Deerfield Beach staff, led by head coach Jevon Glenn and assistant head coach Cameron Thomas, love Jeudy’s humble demeanor.
Jeudy quietly caught 41 passes for 496 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, leading the Bucks to the state’s regional semifinals before losing 17-0 to Flanagan, a team that went on to win the Class 8A championship.
The Bucks have since added quarterback Nick Holm, who transferred in from Calvary Christian after passing for 1,825 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
In addition to Jeudy, the Bucks also have two other senior stars at wide receiver – Leroy Henley, who transferred in from Cardinal Gibbons; and Daewood Davis, a Florida Atlantic recruit who moved over from Somerset.
Davis, named by Friday Night Football magazine as one of the fastest players in the state, usually lines up in the slot with Jeudy and Henley outside. Four-receiver sets are also used often, and the result is usually trouble for the opposition.
“Leroy is a big physical receiver that you can’t press – he will just throw you out of the way,” Jeudy said of Henley. “Daewood is a quick, speedy receiver – he’s a deep threat.
“We have a lot of great receivers. Even our third-stingers are good.”
Jeudy said he hit Cooper up on Instagram, striking up a friendship among former and future Alabama players.
Surprisingly perhaps, Cooper did not try to recruit Jeudy to Alabama.
“We just talk about how to get better,” Jeudy said.
Thomas, Deerfield Beach’s assistant head coach, knows Jeudy is very good already, and that was evident in a 17-14 win over Plantation last year when he turned two bubble screens into long touchdown catch-and-runs.
It all starts, Thomas said, with Jeudy’s character.
“Jerry has an unbelievable work ethic and is very coachable,” Thomas said. “Now that he’s a senior, he helps coach our younger guys, especially our ninth-graders.
“(Jeudy) has that speed and that first step. And with him learning the weight room, everything is coming together to be a beautiful piece.”