Photo by Gabriel Stovall
“I want to be somebody special after high school,” said Lovejoy rising senior JuMichael Ramos. The wide receiver has scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Tech, Middle Tennessee and South Florida.
JuMichael Ramos isn’t the kind of person to get down on himself. He doesn’t lack confidence in his abilities. But he’s also not one to rest on the laurels of past success.
And he doesn’t want to be a forgotten footnote in Lovejoy football history, either.
“That’s why I’ve been working so hard over this past year,” Ramos said. “I want to be somebody special after high school, and in order to do that, I’ve got to be the best I can be while still in high school. I’ve put in a lot of time to improve and it’s showing now.”
And colleges are taking notice of the display.
While Ramos’ Lovejoy teammates were participating in 7-on-7 passing league drills earlier this week, the rising senior wide receiver sat watching from a chair on the sideline.
He was donning a blue Middle Tennessee State visor and had just returned from a recruiting trip to the University of Cincinnati — two of the five schools who have offered Ramos a football scholarship. The others: Georgia Tech, Florida Atlantic and South Florida.
Despite playing last year on a Wildcat team that dominated opponents with its ground game — Georgia Tech commit Travis Custis rushed for over 1,800 yards in 2011 — coach Al Hughes said Ramos has done enough to provide a sizeable preview of his untapped potential.
“He’s a very talented athlete,” Hughes said. “A big basketball-type guy that can use those athletic abilities to run and jump for balls on the football field just as he would on a gym floor.”
Last season’s run-oriented attack was sort of an anomaly for a Lovejoy team that traditionally trots out four and five receivers in a no-huddle spread offense that “throws the ball all over the place,” according to Hughes.
With a bevy of offensive firepower littered across the field, Ramos had just 16 grabs for 217 yards and two touchdowns in 2011. But he showed his big-play ability by averaging almost 14 yards a catch.
With that kind of explosiveness, Hughes said Ramos didn’t need a ton of opportunities to show what he can do.
“He just makes plays when we need him to,” Hughes said. “And that’s what college scouts are looking for — big, tall receivers that can flat out make plays. That’s right down JuMichael’s alley.”
Lovejoy returns Custis and Auburn recruit A.J. Jackson (tight end) this year. Two other speedy wideouts, Jeff Murphy and Preston Williams will help stretch the field for quarterback Alejandro Bennifield. But as a senior Ramos knows he will be expected to raise his game a notch, and take his other teammates with him.
“He’s done a great job so far this summer stepping it up with the other seniors and leaders on this team,” Hughes said. “They don’t want to have their legacy say they followed that 14-1 season with anything less.”
And Ramos is not shying away fromany leadership responsibilities his coach wants to place upon him.
“I definitely think coach is counting on me a lot this year,” he said. “We’ve lost a couple of guys last year so both me and A.J. are going to have to step up.”
Bennefield thinks that Ramos elevating his game won’t be an issue. In fact, the senior signal caller believes his receiver might be poised for a breakout season.
“He’s made big improvement from last year to now,” Bennifield said. “He’s way more committed, way more confident. He’s faster, smarter. He’s just putting everything together.”
Bennifield’s accolades mean that the sweat and sacrifice Ramos has put in to gain the confidence of his quarterback is paying off.
“It’s to the point now that when I tell him where I want him to go with the ball he does it. And when he tells me where he wants me to go, I’m there,” Ramos said. “We’re working hard at making a good bond.”
Such a bond, no doubt, will be needed as Ramos and the Wildcats face new talent from new teams this season. Due to Georgia High School Association bi-annual re-classification, Lovejoy will compete in Class AAAAAA, the state’s highest level, this season.
Although Ramos has his own individual goals to achieve — he wants to commit to a college before his senior season begins — he’s more interested in parlaying his personal success into ultimate team triumph.
“We’ve been back-to-back region champions in our old region, and that’s all good,” Ramos said. “But I want to win the ring this year. I want that to be our memory. We’ll fit right into the new region because everybody wants to get better and win that state championship. The work ethic and everything is right for us right now to make it happen.”