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December 19, 2011Wide receiver Dexter Ransom could have played his football in any major conference in the country after his stint at Blinn Community College.
As the one-time number one rated JUCO player in the nation, Ransom's list of offers reads like a Top 25 poll. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Houston and Baylor along with many other notable programs all vigorously pursued Ransom and his services.
Understandably so, considering the 36 receptions for 734 yards and 10 TDs Ransom put up during his 2008 freshman campaign at Blinn. Things were going well for Ransom, but it would slow down considerably as he suffered an ACL injury which cut his sophomore season short. Still, with a shortened season, Ransom put up numbers that would respectable for nearly any receiver at any level for a single season, with 19 receptions, 7 TDs and 412 yards.
According to Ransom, his only experience with an injury of his nature was seen on the movie 'Friday Night Lights', an iconoclastic anthem for any young boy growing up in Texas.
"I didn't know what to think or expect with that injury. I saw that happen to that character on the movie 'Friday Night Lights' and I was devastated. I kind of put myself in his shoes, and I didn't know if I would really be able to come back or what would happen," Ransom confided. "That was the tough part, the mental part of dealing with it."
As he began dealing with the rehabilitation with the support of his older brother, Thomas and older sister, Annette, he relied most heavily on his faith and support from his mother, Maxine. Uncommonly close with his mother, Ransom spent most of his time in rural Sanguin, Texas living with his mother as his older siblings, considerably older, pursued their own lives.
"I don't know where I'd be without my mother, and the faith that she gave me," Ransom said. "Not just in getting through the injury, and football, but just in life. I've been blessed to have the mother I have. I can't say enough about her, and what she means to me."
Ransom would persevere, working hard to regain lost confidence in his injured knee, but always with the fear of re-injuring the knee again.
"I worried every time I cut that I was going to get hurt again. I wasn't able to cut hard for a long time," he said. "But I worked through that part, and am back to 100% that way. I never think of it anymore."
Unfortunately, many of his once charmed suitors did continue to think about the injury long after the rehabilitation, and his recruiting tapered off.
Seeing the potential, Ransom still had several offers from substantial programs. Like a good deal of Blinn players, Ransom favored the Arizona Wildcats, who had established a bit of a pipeline from Blinn to Tucson. Though Utah was in the mix, Ransom committed, with close friends, to Arizona.
Interviews from immediately after his commitment to the Wildcats were glowing, and his future seemed destined for Tucson, and the Pac-10.
It turns out, it was close; his future, in fact, was destined for the new Pac-12, and Kyle Whittingham's Utes. Post-commitment, Ransom took a trip to Utah and immediately knew it was where he was supposed to be.
"I loved everything about it, and it was so different from anywhere I'd ever been. The people were great, and it felt like family," Ransom recalled. "I thought, this is where I want to be. I knew here I'd have family around me, and support."
Having a family-away-from-home would come into play for Ransom in his time at Utah, unfortunately. Having overcome some roadblocks and difficulties, Ransom's faith and resolve was about to be tested again, and far beyond the stretches of any football field, as Maxine was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2010 just as Ransom was familiarizing himself with life at Utah, and navigating his way through a new city, a new world, really from where he came.
Faced with losing his rock in Maxine, Ransom struggled most with not being able to be with his mom through her illness.
"She had done everything for me, and always been there for me. When she needed me, and I couldn't be there for her, it was hard," an introspective Ransom explained. "Maybe the hardest thing I ever went through. It was the hardest thing I could have imagined. We kept faith, like we always did through everything else, and I think, for us, that was the difference."
While a fleeting thought about quitting football and going back home crept into his mind, Ransom kept his eye on his goals, and kept things in proper perspective.
"For me, academics is a priority. Getting a college degree was always very important for me, and my family," Ransom said. "After football, I'm planning to go on to get my master's in Social Work, so I had to keep my focus on that."
Staying the course, Ransom hasn't seen the time, or success on the football field in his time as a Ute, but he has learned life lessons, which he deems more infinitely more valuable.
"I'm so happy to have been here, and grateful for my time here. I've been proud to be a Ute from the moment I got here, until now," Ransom said. "Sometimes things don't work out how you plan, but everything is for a reason. My mom, who is my hero, taught me that. She taught me how to understand things better. I have a better perspective of life after some of the things I've been through."
Indeed, his perspective has changed from the time as a little boy, when he pined to play for the San Antonio Spurs, as basketball was his first love.
It changed again as a teenager as he switched from basketball to football, because he found he had a talent for it, as well as a better chance at earning a scholarship to attend a major university. Playing tight end and defensive end, and not having the kind of success he'd been told to expect, his perceptions were once again altered, and then again as a high school coach uncovered his talent at wide receiver.
Things finally seemed on track for Ransom at Blinn Community College, as he found himself a much coveted JC recruit prior to his injury, which once again altered the trajectory of his life.
Even as his impending success launched, perhaps, one of the most high-profile sports figures in history in Cam Newton.
Prior to his injury, Ransom was being courted by as many as two dozen football programs, with the SEC's Auburn Tigers, chief among them. Tigers running back coach Curtis Lupers made the trip to dusty Brenham, Texas, home of powerhouse JUCO program, Blinn Community College, intent on signing the rising Ransom.
Instead, the Tigers found themselves a quarterback in Newton, though not even in the market for one. Ransom was forgotten, Newton became the apple of the Tigers' eye, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Ancient history for Ransom, who unwittingly helped launch a collegiate football star in Newton, who would guide Auburn to a National Championship, and an unlikely Heisman Campaign, and who, by early indications, looks to have a career ahead of him in the NFL.
Ransom, not bitter, jealous, or regretful sums it all up humbly.
"I'm happy for Cam. In all my time playing sports, I never saw anyone work as hard as him," Ransom said of former Blinn teammate Cam Newton. "He was the first there, and the last to leave. So everything he has, he's earned. He's a great player, and he was a great teammate. A good example for me. I'm happy it turned out the way it did."
After leaving Blinn, Ransom headed for the deserts of Arizona, only to find himself at Utah, expecting a high-profile season with Jordan Wynn at the helm, only to see the field little as his ailing mother was fighting the fight of her life without him.
His mother healed, and an upward trend with Utah moving to the Pac-12, and Norm Chow coming on as offensive coordinator, brought hope and new expectations. Then a Jordan Wynn season-ending injury brought the Utah running game to the forefront, which meant even less opportunity to see the field as a receiver, except to block for new star John White upfield.
Life, has indeed, been a roller coaster for Ransom, who, according to teammates and coaches alike, has handled the ride with grace and poise.
"Dex is just like a calming force on the sidelines. He's the oldest receiver, and even though he hasn't seen much time on the field, he's been more like a coach or a mentor," said Utah's leading receiver Devonte Christopher. "With younger guys, it's easy to get excited. With him, it's like he's never too high, or too low. He kind of brings that to our squad, and in some big moments, that's been real important for us. He's taught me a lot."
His position coach, Aaron Roderick, unhesitatingly hands down one of the biggest compliments about a player.
"Dex is one of the highest character guys I've ever had the opportunity to be around," praised receivers coach Aaron Roderick. "Watching him, and all he's had to go through and the way he's handled it all has been amazing to see. I've had a lot of really good kids come through here, and honestly, he has to be one of the best."
At Utah, Ransom has played in 16 games and has five catches for 59 total yards, and no touchdowns; not exactly what he had in mind out of his DI collegiate football career.
And the truth is, he couldn't be happier.
He's married and raising a healthy, bouncing baby boy, Brayden, getting his degree in a matter of months, with plans to pursue a Master's in Social Work, meant to help at-risk youth, and his mother Maxine is healthy and cancer free. For Ransom and his ever-changing expectations, he's finally landed in a place where the simple things, like family and a stable future, are enough.
More than enough.