By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
NASHVILLE – It’s not been a straight line from Jackson to Wake Forest for Chris Givens.
Givens, a native of Jackson, is a star wide receiver for the Demon Deacons, who meet Mississippi State in Friday’s Music City Bowl.
He’s set the school’s single-season receiving record with 1,276 yards and transformed himself into a consistent threat.
Givens still has deep roots in Mississippi. He’s a second cousin of Puckett native and MSU reserve linebacker Christian Holmes, and the two have been chatting quite a bit on Facebook and Twitter the past few weeks. Givens hopes Holmes gets some playing time Friday.
“He’s been talking a little too much for me,” said Givens, who was in Brandon – which is near Jackson – over the holiday break to be with family. He had to hear some smack talk there, too.
“I know if (MSU) wins, I’m never going to hear the end of it. … I’d like to go back home and be able to say that we beat Mississippi State in a bowl game.”
When he lived in Jackson, Givens attended a few Egg Bowls, where he always pulled for Ole Miss. At age 10, Givens, his three younger brothers and their mother moved from Jackson to Wylie, Texas, because “she saw a better opportunity in Texas and wanted the best for us.”
Givens was also a big Miami fan and hoped to play college ball there, but his options became limited when he blew out both knees in high school – one during his junior year, the other the next year.
He played a grand total of four games those final two seasons, and a lot of college programs that had been looking at Givens looked elsewhere. But Wake Forest stuck with him.
He was a solid player his first two seasons in Winston-Salem, totaling 1,143 yards and 12 touchdowns. But he wasn’t maximizing his potential.
“To say it mildly, (he) didn’t enjoy the weightroom,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. “Was a guy that really his idea was that practice was just killing time to get ready for Saturday.”
Givens eventually decided he wanted to have a bigger impact and had a productive offseason. He got in the weightroom and became a better team player, “more of an everyday guy,” he said.
Givens entered his junior season a new player, although the results have surprised even himself.
“I didn’t expect to go and break the record this year like I did,” he said. “I know I just worked hard and put my faith in God and let the rest take care of itself.”
Givens, a junior, could leave Wake after this season for the NFL. He’s gotten feedback from the league and has been graded as a second- or third-round pick.
Just a few years ago, when he was fighting through those knee injuries, Givens could’ve just called it quits. Holmes said that’s what he thought was going to happen.
“I love football too much to quit,” Givens said. “I have three younger brothers, and if I would have quit, I feel like that wouldn’t have been a good thing as a role model to do. I just fought through it, fought hard, and I’m here today.”