There’s a reason you won’t be seeing Javess Blue on the field when the Pats play the Packers tonight. It has a lot to do with bad luck and fluke injuries in an up and down football career.
UK receivers coach Tommy Mainord had some news — and it wasn’t good.
He had to track down Neal Brown. Where was he?
It was 2013, just hours before the Cats were going to face Alabama State. Finally, Mainord found the former UK offensive coordinator talking to some recruits.
Mainord was about to change the night’s gameplan with his announcement.
“I could tell it was not going to be good,” Brown told the Herald-Leader.
It was wide receiver Javess Blue, Mainord said. He’d been injured. And it was, well, an odd story. Turns out UK’s top receiver and kick returner would not be able to play because he’d injured an eye — while throwing the football with teammates before the pregame warmups even began.
Unfortunately for the wide receiver, the situation seemed to be a microcosm of Blue’s career: It was always something. Javess Blue, the one-time sticky hands, uber-athletic wide receiver prospect from Florida who played at UK, has been, at times, unlucky and unproductive, while at others, spectacular and second to none.
Who then, could be surprised, that his short pro career has — so far — played out the same way?
Amazing and a mystery
Blue was a star at Lake Wales High School in Florida. The stats don’t lie: 88 receptions for 1,774 yards and 20 TDs in his last two years. The 6-0, 188-pound receiver ran a 4.29 40-yard dash and was a three-star recruit.
He ended up going the JUCO route, to Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas. The numbers were, again, eye-popping: 65 receptions for 1,064 yards and 12 touchdowns, 28.8 yards per kick return and 11.2 yards per punt return. He was a second-team JUCO All-American and was rated by ESPN as the No. 14 JUCO player in the country. It all added up to a great get for Kentucky.
But again, the player’s career was — at times — amazing, or in other times, a mystery.
All Blue did his first season at UK was to lead the Wildcats with 43 catches for 586 yards and four touchdowns — which made him a top 15 receiver in the SEC. He caught an 88-yard touchdown versus Miami (Ohio), the fourth-longest pass in school history. That was part of a career-best six catches for 114 yards in that game. He also averaged 20.4 yards on kick returns.
Then, during Spring practice, Blue injured his shoulder. He was out for more than three months. Fully healthy by the time the 2014 season began, he started slow, and then injured an ankle, which further hampered his progress.
Then he had a coming-out party: three catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns against Louisiana-Monroe, including one of the best one-handed catches you’ll ever see. Again, he seemed to be reaching his potential.
By the end of UK’s 5-7 season Blue became an undrafted free agent. He again proved to be unlucky, in a sense — he signed with the Green Bay Packers, good because he had a built-in mentor in Randall Cobb, but bad because the Pack brought in more than 12 wide receivers to compete for essentially one spot at a crowded position.
“The Packers have struck gold with Kentucky wideouts before,” wrote the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, “and Blue has intriguing attributes, not the least of which are his incredible hands.”
Then came the other side of the coin. Here are Blue’s notes from the Journal-Sentinel over the past week:
- “At this stage, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish Javess Blue from the other wide receivers in this range. Still, it probably won’t matter. The Packers have assembled perhaps their best receiving corps since 2011, making it difficult for any of these guys to carve out a niche.”
- “Wide Receiver Javess Blue, a rookie free agent, had impressed as a clever route runner. Then, on Friday, he really hurt himself by dropping a well-thrown corner route of about 20 yards from Brett Hundley in the end-zone corner behind Quinten Rollins.”
- A thumbs down to “Rookie receiver Javess Blue, who dropped an easy touchdown pass earlier this week, (and) could not secure an uncontested pass along the sideline,” the paper reported.
And then came another strange injury. Blue was sidelined with a left shoulder injury when he collided with Kandi Goltz, the team’s manager of game and fan development, in the team’s Family Night practice at Lambeau Field on Saturday.
“Goltz was standing far back from the sideline when Blue lost his balance and couldn’t stop as he stretched for a pass,” wrote the Journal-Sentinel.
Because for Javess Blue, if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.
‘One big learning process’
Still, Blue is keeping a positive attitude and trying to do the impossible: Make the roster. He knows it’s an uphill climb.
“I’m just towing the line out there, everyday, trying to make the best of the situation,” Blue told KSR in a recent interview. “Just being a part of this organization, having a high-caliber quarterback, you know there’s a lot that you can learn from all of the receivers, all the vets they have here.”
Ultimately, he says, there’s a huge difference between college and professional football.
“It’s one big learning process you’re going through coming in as a rookie,” Blue says. “Basically you just have to come out here and make plays, and know the little things, know the playbook — the little things matter. Speed-wise and just being mentally there on the field — it’s a lot of learning, a lot to take in.”
Blue knows he needs to stay on the field, and he needs to be able to find some consistency. It’s no question he has the talent, something he’s shown to the Packers already. The good news is that Blue does have Randall Cobb there, a star who has proven that he will listen to the rookie wide receivers.
“He’s a mentor to all of us — all the rookies here,” Blue says. “It’s not (someone) you look at and see that aura — (you) look at him as that guy you can always go to. You want to gain that knowledge. You don’t want to be afraid to ask him anything.”
In the end, through all the ups and the downs, Blue knows there are fans back in Lexington wanting him to achieve. He’s excited too — for the upcoming pro and college football seasons, for the Wildcats taking another step forward, and for the refurbished Commonwealth Stadium to open.
“At the end of the day, we’re still #BBN,” he says. “Go Wildcats!”