JACKSONVILLE — Just yesterday, it seemed like Jamari Hester landed on the Jacksonville State campus out of Miami (Fla.) Central High as a 185-pound tight end.
He was a project among projects — and Gamecocks coaches figured he would need time to develop. Lots of time.
He redshirted as a freshman in 2015. That’s when he shifted to wide receiver, where he found a position that fit him. (A 185-pound tight end wasn’t going to block too many defensive ends and outside linebackers.)
Hester has gotten better and better. Now, at 6-foot-6¼ and 210 pounds, with arms long enough that it seems like he could spread them and reach from sideline to sideline, he’s one of the jewels on the Gamecocks’ roster.
HERO Sports has listed him as one of 35 FCS players who could get a shot at the NFL next season. Only two others from JSU are on the list — safeties Traco Williams and Marlon Bridges.
Draft Scout ranks him as the 87th best “small school” prospect in the nation, along with teammate Josh Pearson at No. 12, Bridges at No. 25 and Williams at No. 56. NFL Draft Bible has Hester as the No. 249 best senior in the country, regardless of division. Pearson is No. 159 and Bridges No. 160.
For now, however, Hester said he isn’t concentrating on his NFL chances.
“I can say I look at pro football, but I’m looking at the time now and what I can get better at now,” he said. “If pro football comes after my season, it’s destined, but I just go with the flow, honestly.”
Hester acknowledged that he has teammates who are working as hard and inspiring him to keep up the pace. While he arrived as a project player, so did lots of others on the team.
“I think it has been a long road for everyone, and the fact that I get to play alongside guys who have the same goals and can achieve the same things as me, it’s just great because I know we all have the same work ethic,” he said. “We’re all chasing the same dream.”
His numbers from a year ago are hard to ignore: 59 catches, 864 yards and 11 touchdowns. That came after a slow start.
Hester said he isn’t the only one trying to keep getting better. Again, he points to his fellow receivers, the quarterbacks, and everyone else on the squad.
“We put time into our craft because everyone isn’t going to be perfect, but we try to become as close to perfect as we can,” he said.