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Recruiting: Versatile Nature Coast standout Ja'Juan Story still collecting and combing his options

Nature Coast’s Ja’Juan Story played receiver, defensive back and quarterback during his junior season. Florida State, USF and Big Ten foes Ohio State and Michigan have already made offers.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Nature Coast’s Ja’Juan Story played receiver, defensive back and quarterback during his junior season. Florida State, USF and Big Ten foes Ohio State and Michigan have already made offers.

BROOKSVILLE — Arguably the two most famous athletes to strut across the Nature Coast campus are Ja'Juan Story and Tyler Bergantino.

Haven't heard of them, you say? There's a strong chance you will soon.

Bergantino, a sophomore, made his mark this winter as the Sharks' dominant big man and already has drawn interest from some of the nation's top basketball schools. Today he is expected to play in an AAU Easter tournament, where he will try to impress hundreds of scouts.

This story, however, is about Story and the mark he is expected to leave on the football field.

Someone is obviously impressed. To date, Story, a senior-to-be, has 17 scholarship offers during a period often reserved for blue-chip recruits.

Florida State, Ohio State, Michigan, USF, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Auburn are among the offers in hand. Florida is in pursuit, and Story has spoken with Gators coach Urban Meyer more than once.

"It lets me know my hard work paid off and I accomplished something," Story said. "That's half of my goal, all these scholarships. The other goal is to go to college, be a success and then go to the NFL."

Story could have taken another path and very well might have been a Pasco Pirate. Born in Dade City and raised in Lacoochee, Story talks fondly of his days there. He remains close with the Pirates' Jamie Byrd, another top-notch recruit.

"We talk about everything — girls, problems, partying and having fun," Story said. "Sometimes we even talk about going to the same college."

Story initially wanted to stay in Lacoochee with Byrd for high school, but Story's mother ultimately decided he should move to Brooksville. It didn't take long to adjust.

"I always did good with my grades," Story said. "She thought it would affect me if I stayed there, so she made me come to Nature Coast."

As a Shark he flourished, capturing the attention of colleges with his 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame, scorching speed and raw talent. Story has the versatility to play quarterback or on defense, but he doesn't mind being recruited as an athlete; he believes he could make his greatest impact as a receiver.

"It just kind of took off on itself because he took so much to the table," Nature Coast assistant Robert Kazmier said. "I got his highlight film done so early; that was the key. That was in early December, then people got to see him early."

Story said the moment he realized he was "big time" was when ESPN invited him to the Bradenton Under Armour Combine last month.

At his first combine, Story ran a 4.57-second 40-yard dash (a slow time due to a strong head wind) and impressed with his strong one-on-one skills.

"I didn't realize I was that good to go there and perform with all the other best athletes in the nation," Story said.

So what's he searching for?

Story wants to blanket as many schools as possible in person to allow him to make the best decision for his future. He said he doesn't want to be redshirted if he is capable of competing for playing time.

"I'm not asking for all of the playing time in the world, but I wouldn't mind a couple of minutes," Story said. "I don't like the thought of going to practice, working hard, game day comes and then nothing."

One thing is certain: Don't expect a quick decision. Story said he studies offenses of each school and depth charts. He looks at commitments, and none of it fazes him.

"It doesn't really bother me," Story said. "I know I'm going to go somewhere and prove myself and get some playing time."

CHECK IT OUT: Local football standouts will have a chance the next two weekends to catch the eye of one of the recruiting gurus who will descend upon Tampa Bay for back-to-back combines at local schools.

On April 11, the inaugural Big County Preps Ignite Combine will be held at Hillsborough High. Terriers defensive backs coach Preston Jackson, along with other coaches from the county, will coordinate the event, which costs $55. More information is available at big countypreps.com.

On April 17, Elite Scouting Services is holding a combine at Jefferson, with former FSU Heisman Trophy-winning and NFL quarterback Chris Weinke and FSU running back Dexter Carter, a 1990 first-round NFL pick, working with participants.

Registration is at 7 a.m., and the combine is scheduled to run until 2 p.m. Participants will also be briefed on what to expect during recruiting season.

The cost to preregister is $30; $35 the day of the combine. More information can be found at elitescoutingservices.com.

Both combines will focus on the usual drills — strength, sprinting, shuttles — as well as one-on-one drills matching linemen, running backs and linebackers, and wide receivers and defensive backs. Both events promise coverage from local and national recruiting experts, as well as sending the results to various colleges across the country.

Most of the top local recruits are expected to attend.

Times staff writer John C. Cotey contributed to this report. Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@tampa bay.com or (813) 421-3886.

Recruiting: Versatile Nature Coast standout Ja'Juan Story still collecting and combing his options 04/03/10 [Last modified: Saturday, April 3, 2010 11:11pm]
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