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Future so bright for Ravenwood's Van Jefferson


Prior to the 2013 football season, Tennesseans were no strangers to the Jefferson family. Former NFL wide receiver and Detroit Lions receivers coach Shawn Jefferson was hired by the Tennessee Titans in January. His son, Van Jefferson, a highly-touted junior wideout, received his first scholarship offer from Vanderbilt, and since then Tennessee, Penn State and Middle Tennessee State have offered him a scholarship as well.

Yet, few from the Volunteer State had seen a live glimpse of the 6-2, 185-pound electric athlete — that was until last Friday when Jefferson exploded for 152 yards and four touchdowns in his official debut for Ravenwood High School.

Ravenwood's Van Jefferson (2), son of former NFL receiver Shawn Jefferson, electrified the crowd with four TD catches

"The sky is the limit for Van Jefferson," Ravenwood head coach Will Hester said. "He's a wonderful kid and we're blessed to have him on this football team."

Jefferson will surely make life easier on Hester, who is in his first year at the helm at Ravenwood, and his quarterback Avery Jankowski. The senior signal-caller isn't even sure how to verbalize what it's like to throw passes to his favorite target.

"It's pretty hard to explain," Jankowski said. "Almost every ball, you know he's gonna have a chance for it."

Jankowski started out in a QB battle last year at Ravenwood before claiming the starting spot down the stretch. Now, Jefferson is convinced the combo can be the best receiver-quarterback duo in the state.

There were nothing but good vibes after Ravenwood's 55-6 opening night victory, but it still holds true that the program has not made the playoffs since 2008 — despite winning the state title less than a decade ago. That fact would make it somewhat puzzling to some as to why Jefferson chose Ravenwood of all places to take his talents, but Shawn Jefferson has the answer.

"Van wanted to be a part of a rebuilding process," he said. "We wanted to come here and build a tradition at Ravenwood."

Jefferson added that the school's state championship in 2005 was a major selling point. Furthermore, Jefferson has been extremely pleased with his son's new head coach.

"He's a man," Jefferson said of Hester. "If he tells you something, you can take it to the bank."

For now, Van Jefferson is happy with the four schools that want his name on the dotted line on the 2015 Signing Day. This week, Jefferson will take some of his teammates to Vanderbilt Stadium for the Vanderbilt-Ole Miss game on Thursday night, as he takes an unofficial visit.

Jefferson had a busy summer with football camps, as he got a chance to visit all four of the schools that offered him.

"I loved the campus at Penn State and Tennessee," Jefferson said, "especially Vanderbilt."

Jefferson, a highly recruited junior, hauls in a catch between a trio of Hillsboro defenders at the Ravenwood 7-on-7 Aug. 20.

But the horizon is wide open, especially if Jefferson continues to wow his viewers on Friday nights. According to Tennessee's newest high school standout, Michigan and Michigan State have shown interest, in addition to the University of Central Florida, where his dad played collegiately.

However, Jefferson has his eyes set on Tennessee and the Clemson Tigers, despite not having any contact with the program just yet.

"Clemson is definitely a favorite," Jefferson said. "I love Clemson. I haven't talked to them or anything like that, I just love the school."

The recruiting trail is just starting to heat up — soon turning to hot coals. What advice has Shawn Jefferson given his son on what to do as the spotlight gets brighter and brighter?

"I told him to just take it all in, man. Just play ball," Jefferson said. " If you play ball and do the things you're supposed to do, people will notice you."

Jefferson said not much has changed for his son during the last few weeks, and neither has his focus.

"I want all his focus on helping his team right here...I want him thinking about Ravenwood High School," he said.

Van Jefferson has an unmatched advantage having a father who played the wide receiver position at the highest level, and now coaches a talented Titans group.

Penn State, Vandy, UT and MTSU have offered scholarships to Jefferson.

"It's a blessing, having him to coach me...coaching me up the way he coaches Justin (Hunter) and Kenny Britt," Jefferson said. "I thank God for him every day."

Jefferson said that he has really fallen in love with the Titans' corps of wideouts since moving to Tennessee.

"I look up to all of them, you know. Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, Kenny Britt and all those guys," he said. "One day I wanna be in their position if God lets me."

The lengthy speedster said his favorite is Hunter because they have similar skill sets. Hunter, a Volunteer alum, hasn't wasted any time telling Jefferson how much he enjoyed playing at the University of Tennessee.

Shawn Jefferson knows what it takes to be a big-time receiver, and he said that from a coaching standpoint, his son has to keep improving in all areas of his game.

"We coach perfection," Jefferson said. "It's about completion."

But Jefferson will be there to help his son along the way, just as he has done since putting a football in his hands at the age of two. He said his favorite part of watching Van play is seeing how he has come full circle, from running around the house as a kid to dashing towards the end zone on game day.

That is a sight he will be sure to see over and over for years to come.

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