Junior Wide Receiver Works to Earn Spot on the Football Field
Javontee Herndon is a name that, until this season, most Razorback fans had merely heard in passing. Considering he is a wide receiver that was playing on the same team as Jarius Wright, Greg Childs and Joe Adams, that is somewhat understandable. But those players are gone now, and the football team needs receivers that can step up and make plays.
In the last two seasons, Herndon played in 25 games and caught 10 passes, totaling 169 yards. In 2011 against Mississippi State, he caught a career-high four passes for 40 yards to help the Razorbacks to a 44-17 victory over the Bulldogs.
Hopes were high for Herndon going into this season, but camp did not start as well for him as both he and coaches would have liked. A switch of position helped him to get going. Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said Herndon had a bad start to camp, but a strong finish helped him to have an OK camp overall.
“I think I had a decent camp,” Herndon said. “I started off kind of shaky and then when I switched to ‘z’ I started to crank it up and it’s been paying off for me.
“I started off playing ‘x’ and then they came to me and told me that they thought I played faster at ‘z’ and that I would have the opportunity to get my balls so I just started working harder and it’s been working for me,” Herndon added.
Not only did the switch help Herndon play better, but it was also beneficial to the team as a whole. He is now the back up for Cobi Hamilton, who plays such a vital role in the offense that the coaching staff knew they needed a guy behind him that they could have confidence in.
“So much of our offense and so much in practice everyday is to that position,” Petrino said. “And so much of the game plan is going to be to that position that we thought if something ever happens to (Hamilton), we better not have a freshman backing him up because he has to do so much, line up in so many different places, move around so much different.”
For many players, being the back up to a player as good as Hamilton could be a reason to get down, but Herndon hasn’t let it bother him.
“In practice I was catching a lot more balls,” Herndon said. “So if I just stay positive, I just thought it was gonna work out for the best.
As fate would have it, Hamilton was forced to leave the game with an injury and Herndon got his chance to shine.
“I like to take advantage of my opportunities,” Herndon said. “Last year I had a big game when (Jarius) Wright wasn’t feeling too well in Little Rock when we played Mississippi State. So when they told me Cobi was down, I just thought to myself I’ve got to step it up and just make some plays.”
On the Razorback’s second drive of the third quarter, Herndon got the opportunity to make a big play, scoring a 63-yard touchdown, the first of his career.
“(Quarterback Tyler Wilson) checked it to like all verticals and once I knew that I was like I’ve gotta get in the end zone, I’m gonna be wide open,” Herndon said. “So I just took off down the middle and tried to outrun that middle linebacker and it worked out for me.
“When that ball was in the air, I felt like it was up there for a year. I just stared it down. The whole time I was like ‘whatever you do, do not drop this ball.’ And then when I caught it I thought to myself ‘you better take off to the endzone’ and I scored,” Herndon added.
Herndon finished the best game of his career with four catches for 96 yards and one touchdown. He did not surprise himself with his performance, but he said he thinks he may have surprised some other people.
“I’m sure not most people expected that,” Herndon said. “I feel like I was put out there to do that, so I wanted to show that I could do it.”
Herndon said he feels like he has enough speed to be a deep threat for the team, but to be any kind of threat he needs to be on the field. Unfortunately for Herndon, Hamilton won’t be out of every game.
In Saturday night’s 34-31 overtime loss to the University of Louisiana-Monroe, Herndon had little playing time and didn’t record a single statistic, while Hamilton tallied 99 yards and a touchdown.
“Just work hard in practice, get better everyday and whatever happens, happens,” Herndon said of playing behind Hamilton.
Herndon will look to get more playing time against Alabama, a team he did not get to play against the last time they came to town ranked No. 1 in 2010.