Entering into his senior year at Lake Worth High School in Florida, LaVon Brazill didn't know where he was headed. Whether he was joking with his friends or being a class clown, Brazill had yet to focus himself on anything. Low grades had kept him from being active in his school's athletic programs and he was staring into an uncertain future.
Realizing that he had one last year of high school left to figure out what to do in life, LaVon made the decision to crack down on his grades and to play a sport: football.
Though Brazill had not played high school football before, he was a great athlete with a rare combination of speed, hops and hands, especially for someone that had not been working to refine those skills. It wasn't a hard decision for the Lake Worth to keep Brazill around the program but the position he won a job at was cornerback, not wide receiver, the position he plays for the Ohio Bobcats.
"I actually liked playing corner more than receiver," Brazill said.
Brazill said being a defensive back aided his development as a pass catcher because he was learning the ins and outs of his nemeses' craft. Brazill became privy to reading a corner's eyes before the ball was snapped and he learned when the best time to make his cuts was. Most of the time you will see high school wide receivers make the transition to cornerback at the college level because they are generally the best athletes, but in Brazill's case he got experience at both spots.
In his lone year at Lake Worth, Brazill had 23 receptions for 615 yards and eight touchdowns. At cornerback, Brazill recorded 44 tackles and three interceptions. He was the team MVP and earned first-team all-conference honors. Pretty good for someone that hadn't played a down of competitive football before.
Brazill's journey could have ended there. A young man attempting to find himself using football to get his life on track is a nice story in itself. But his football days weren't over when he played his last snap at Lake Worth.
"I didn't think that I was going to play college ball," Brazill said. "I wasn't sure if schools were going to offer me a scholarship."
Ohio University was the only school that showed more than minimal interest in Brazill. Head coach Frank Solich was just two years into his tenure in Athens when Brazill graduated high school and, who was a receivers coach on Solich's staff at the time, thought he had potential. Solich was looking for some playmakers to help integrate his offensive system into a program that had previously been devoid of offensive talent. Though Brazill had played just one year of football, the term "playmaker" was a perfect description of him as a player. Because he was able to put on a good showing in just six games at receiver (and seven at corner), football had taken a kid staring into an ambiguous future as he entered his senior year to a division one college athlete on scholarship .
"Luckily for me, Ohio stuck with me. I was extremely happy when I signed that letter of intent. I never thought that day would come," Brazill said.
As of February 8th, 2007, LaVon Brazill was an Ohio Bobcat.
Fast forward to October 15th, 2011.
With a little less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter in a home game against Ball State, the Bobcats found themselves down 23-20. Facing a make or break 3rd and 12 at their own three yard line, Tyler Tettleton connects with Brazill on a 20 yard pass play.
Not only did that catch get the Bobcats out of their own redzone and keep their hopes of a comeback alive, it was also the 149th of Brazill's career, tying him with Taylor Price for the school record for career receptions. One play later, Tettleton would find Brazill again on a 13-yard slant, giving LaVon 150 receptions and sole possession of the career record. Though the Bobcats would go on to lose the game on a missed field goal attempt by Matt Weller, Brazill went down in the school's history on that day.
"He's been a special player in the program and the numbers indicate that, obviously," coach Solich said of his star receiver after that game. "He's been great to work with and he's a guy that's done the right things off the field, so I was really happy to see him get the record today."
Now just a day away from the biggest regular season game of his senior year, Brazill is within striking distance of two more Bobcat records: career receiving touchdowns and receiving yards.
Brazill is currently tied for second in career receiving touchdowns with 15, putting him five away from breaking Terrence McCrae's career mark of 19 scores. Brazill has eight touchdowns in eight games this season, so if he keeps up his current pace, he should be able to get five more touchdowns by season's end (Ohio has four regular season games left as well as a potential bowl game). The fifth year senior is also just 301 yards away from Todd Snyder's career record of 2,241 receiving yards. A little over 60 receiving yards per game should net Brazill yet another Ohio record.
With just a handful of games left in his Ohio career, Brazill says he is overwhelmed when he thinks back to where he was when his senior year in high school started, but his position is somewhat similar. Once again, Brazill is looking into an uncertain future, hoping that there is an NFL team that will take after Ohio and give him a shot at the next level. As one of the most underrated receivers in the nation, Brazill hasn't had the same amount of buzz around him throughout his career as someone like Justin Blackmon, but that doesn't mean he can't contribute at the next level.
Taylor Price, Brazill's former teammate and the player he passed with his 150th reception, is currently a member of the New England Patriots. Though he hasn't had a catch this season, the fact that he has kept his spot is mighty impressive considering how stingy New England can be with their roster. Price was drafted in the third round of the 2010 draft and, at least in my opinion, Brazill is a better overall player. Not only is LaVon a bit more physical than Price, he's also got better hands and is an explosive punt returner.
"(LaVon will) definitely get a look as a slot receiver and kick returner," founder of New Era Scouting Matt Miller said. "The only way I see him getting drafted is if he runs very well in a Pro Day and can drum up interest that way. Otherwise, he's looking like a UDFA guy. With his special teams experience, I do think he could make a team."
Whether or not someone will end up giving Brazill a chance in the NFL doesn't change the fact that he has cemented himself as the best wide receiver in the history of Ohio University. Not only has he been a class act to follow on the field, his story is inspiring to those unsure of their futures. Brazill set out to play football his senior year, worked hard at becoming the best he could be and found himself playing college football a few months later.
"Anything is possible through hard work," Brazill said.
While it's an overused cliche in the sports realm, LaVon Brazill is one of the few examples when literally anything was possible so long as he worked hard enough to achieve it.