Early decision pays off for JMU’s Ravenel

James Madison University's Brandon Ravenel runs down field in a game against Morehead State last season. The senior wide receiver led the team in receptions and yards last season. Courtesy photo/JMU Athletics Communications

HARRISONBURG — Brandon Ravenel wasn’t budging.

When the James Madison University senior wide receiver was entering his freshman year of high school at North Stafford High School he came to a team camp at JMU and fell in love with the place.

“I kind of told myself If I’m ever fortunate enough to (get the chance) I’m going to come here to play football one day,” Ravenel said.

During his high school career Ravenel blossomed and became a three-star recruit. He had offers from Football Bowl Subdivision schools such as Boston College, Old Dominion, Purdue, Temple and West Virginia. Still, Ravenel picked Football Championship Subdivision JMU over the bigger schools.

He said he’s still very glad that he made the choice to come to JMU, and he’s put together a strong career.

As a freshman, Ravenel played in every game. He finished with 20 catches for 312 yards one score.

He nearly doubled his totals his sophomore year with 38 receptions for 535 yards and five touchdowns.

But Ravenel wasn’t satisfied. He said he learned a lot in those first two seasons.

“One thing that I’ve definitely learned is that life doesn’t always necessarily go where you think it’s going to go or where you expect it to go,” Ravenel said. “And one thing that you have to know is that you have to make it go where you want it to go.”

As a junior, Ravenel made things go the way he wanted them to and became a real threat in the passing game.

He led the team last year with 57 receptions for 683 yards and four touchdowns. He also returned nine kickoffs for 350 yards and a touchdown.

“It was a pretty fun year,” Ravenel said. “I can honestly say that I had a lot of fun last year too, which I didn’t allow myself to have the first two years.”

He said he’s learned a lot from all of the people around him over the last three years.

“One thing that I love about football is it’s more than just a sport. It’s a lifestyle, it’s a culture and I’ve learned most of my life lessons through this game,” Ravenel said. “(JMU football head) coach Houston coming in and even the previous coaches, and especially the players, you just learn so much from them all. There’s things that you can incorporate into your life that can help you in the far future and in the near future.”

The Dukes are hoping for big things from Ravenel again this season.

JMU offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick said that Ravenel is an important part of the JMU offense.

“He obviously has big play ability,” Kirkpatrick said. “He’s done that in the past. He’s a guy that we got to get the ball in his hands and he can make things happen.”

Ravenel said he doesn’t really have any personal goals, he just wants to help the team be the best it can be.

“As long as the team does good I’m going to be happy. My role is to make everyone around me better, not just myself because anyone can make themselves better. But you’ve just got to make the guys around you better, and I think that’s going to be my biggest emphasis this year.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com