Speak Softly, And Carry A Big Rick
Ricky Jeune plans to use Pro Day to make his NFL dream reality, silence critics
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Ricky Jeune doesn’t believe in the word “but.” Especially not when he’s pursuing his dreams.
For him, “but” is a four-letter word, one used by others to keep him from getting where he wants to go and fulfilling his goals.
Jeune, who fulfilled a dream in December when he graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in business administration, will take a big step in pursuing another one on Friday, when he’ll be one of 14 Yellow Jackets to show their wares in front of NFL Scouts at Pro Day, taking place at the John and Mary Brock Football Practice Facility.
There may be some “buts” and doubts directed toward Jeune and Georgia Tech receivers. He has his own message to the skeptics and doubters. “Butt out!”
“I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been working really hard and I want to show the scouts what I can do out there,” said the 6-3, 205-pound native of Nyack, N.Y. “Ever since I was a little kid playing football in my hometown I always wanted to play professional football.”
Jeune quietly but efficiently stated his case in his years at Georgia Tech (2013-18). After redshirting his true-freshman year, then getting his feet wet on special teams and in sporadic appearances late in games the following season, he blossomed his final three seasons. He started his final three years and led the Jackets in receiving each year. He finished his career with 74 catches for 1,492 yards and 11 TDs.
He proved consistent (catching 24, 25 and 25 passes) and a big-play guy, (averaging 20.2 yards per catch) at receiver. As a redshirt senior, he made 14 big plays (13 receptions, 1 rush) and his 21.8 yards per catch (545 yards on 25 receptions, including a career-high six TDs) ranked seventh in Division I.
While the numbers speak well for him, as does his reputation as a tenacious downfield blocker, Jeune also knows he needs a big Pro Day to overcome the reputation Georgia Tech receivers have in Paul Johnson’s run-heavy spread option offense. It’s a reputation he feels is undeserved.
“There’s always a knock on Tech receivers that we have limited routes. I want to show them that I can run the whole route tree,” he said. “I don’t really listen to any of that. I just focus on what I can control. What I can control is getting better and proving everybody wrong.”
Jeune has chosen to listen to, and work with, former teammates who already have proven skeptics wrong. Among them are former Tech wide receiver DeAndre Smelter, who plies his craft with the Indianapolis Colts after being selected in the fourth round (No. 132 overall) of the 2015 Draft by the San Francisco 49ers, and Justin Thomas, Jeune’s quarterback for two years, who has reinvented himself as a wide receiver and is with the Pittsburgh Steelers after auditions with the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. Both had some tips on where to improve to get the attention of scouts.
“Just rounding some routes and getting out of your breaks and not giving your breaks away,” he said. “I got some routes in the slot but not as much as you do on the next level. So I want to show them that I can work both inside and out. I’ve been working on the whole NFL route tree. I’ve been working on explosiveness and route-running.”
Jeune wasn’t at the NFL Combine but feels he can still make an impression with a good Pro Day performance. He’s already impressed ESPN’s NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper, who told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“I think Ricky Jeune is the most interesting one – the wide receiver. Because they’ve had a history of producing some receivers. Obviously, you know who the big names were. I think he is a guy that fights for the ball, he makes plays after the catch, he’ll block very effectively. I think Ricky Jeune is that under-the-radar wide receiver somebody’s going to get, probably Day 3. I think he could have a nice career in the NFL.”
Jeune would become the fifth receiver drafted during the Paul Johnson era, joining two-time All-Pro and Super Bowl champion Demaryius Thomas, a 2010, first-round pick by Denver (No. 22 overall), Stephen Hill, a 2012 second-rounder of the New York Jets (No. 43 overall), Smelter, and Darren Waller, selected two rounds after Smelter in 2015 by Baltimore (No. 204 overall). Kevin Cone also was signed as a free agent by the Atlanta Falcons and played three years in the league.
“I feel like we’re the type of receivers that are definitely slept on because of the opportunities we get,” he said. “Watching Tech football over the years, whenever we get the opportunity to make plays we usually make them. All these big, strong, physical guys that can block. They all got drafted.”
Jeune believes he can be next in line to “The Show” the same way he was to starting on “The Flats.”
He sees getting to perform at The Brock as a boon to him as well as to his 13 teammates, who’ll also let it rip under the radar and on their turf.
“I’ve been practicing there for five years. So of course, having Pro Day at your own school is definitely more comforting,” he said.
As comforting is knowing that his fate is in his hands. Jeune will leave it on the Brock field one final time then let the chips fall where they may.
“I would always love playing in my hometown but I don’t have a favorite,” he said. “Whatever team decides to come after me, I’d be happy.”