By LARRY VAUGHT
There’s little doubt that JJ Weaver has all the physical tools to be a special football player at Kentucky. The 6-6, 240-pound Louisville Moore defensive end has verbally committed to Kentucky and is the kind of four-star athlete that UK coach Mark Stoops loves to have to fortify his defense.
But what has impressed me even more about Weaver is hearing about his personality and demeanor from Moore assistant principal Traci Morris, who has known him for three years.
“He’s just a kid that you gravitate to,” Morris said. “I am a former coach, so I am probably drawn more to the athletic side even though my job now is focused on academics. Kids recognize that I love sports and that I would be at every game to support them if I could.
“I have boys ages 8 and 10 and they absolutely adore JJ. He’s a great player and athlete, but he is so humble. There’s nothing about him that is prideful or entitled. As soon as you meet him, you know that.”
Morris knew Weaver was a “big deal” when she got to Moore but said there was no way to know that when you met him because he was just a “kid who was trying to make it and help everyone he could” do the same thing.
Morris said football comes easy to Weaver. Academics is a bit different.
“He is not a kid who is going to make A’s and B’s without working. He works for what he gets,” Morris said. “Last year he he had a tough math teacher. JJ was a nervous wreck about the class. I remember the teacher telling me not to take JJ out of his class because he wanted him in there to challenge him and help him. He is a just a kid to love. The teacher kept him in there. JJ stayed after school and worked one on one with the teacher. Later he thanked the teacher for making him stick it out.”
Weaver got emotional several times during his press conference to announce he was verbally committing to Kentucky. He said it meant a lot to him to make his commitment at a school that was so good to him after he moved here from Florida and he had so many people to thank that he cried.
“He was very nervous about the right things to say. He had stuff to read and kept telling me he was going to cry. I told him it was okay, that’s who he was,” the assistant principal said. “He’s just emotional and he is so excited about the next chapter of his life. He is just kind of nervous because we have all wrapped our arms around him so much. He doesn’t want that to go away.
“On the football field, he’s a monster. He’s a giant out there. His coaches says there’s just a switch that turns on when he steps on the field. It’s like his alter ego takes over. He’s definitely tough out there, but off the field he’s just a lovable kid.”
Morris said Weaver often told her he would go to bed at night before his commitment and think he might go somewhere different. He really liked Purdue coach Jeff Brohm. He even took a visit to Louisville last weekend but he had indicated he would to keep a promise to athletics director Vince Tyra.
“I have been a Kentucky fan, but I just want what is best for him,” Morris said. “We talked about him getting out of the city might be helpful and let him grow more on his own. He’s still a homebody and a momma’s boy. He knew he couldn’t go far away. No way could he have gone to Miami.
“I really think Kentucky is the best possible situation for him. I would be the first to buy red to support him if he had picked Louisville but that official visit to Kentucky just sealed the deal for him. He really felt like he was at home there and that’s big for him.”
With All-American and national defensive player of the year Josh Allen graduating, Kentucky has a need for a playmaker like Weaver.
“I am 6-6, 240. My reach is longer than Josh’s,” Weaver said. “Josh is a great role model, great human being. He’s physical, fast. He showed me what I could be like in that same defense.
“Kentucky is close to home but not too close. I didn’t want to go all the way back to Miami even though I am from Florida and I didn’t want to stay in the city. Kentucky is going to be perfect for me.”