Kentucky football’s latest addition from Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow’s Ohio pipeline has taken a strange journey to Lexington. Here’s more on the man that will change Kentucky’s wide receivers’ room this fall.
1. An Inexperienced Wide Receiver
Wagner only played one year of high school football. It did not take long for him to stand out in the crowd. The 6’7″ sprinter on the outside gained more than 1,000 yards and caught 17 touchdowns in his only season on the gridiron for Wayne High School, a place Marrow recruits frequently.
The 247 Composite gave him a four-star ranking as the No. 284 player overall in the 2015 recruiting class. To compare that to other Wildcats from the 2015 class, Wagner was ten spots higher than C.J. Conrad; only Eli Brown was ranked higher.
2. Kentucky was his only Offer
Plenty of other schools, including Ohio State, gauged interest, but only Kentucky extended a scholarship offer. He remained committed to Fran McCaffrey’s basketball team, but that offer might have paid off three years later.
“It’s all kind of strange to me because I still didn’t think I was that good,” Wagner told Land of 10 in January. “It’s really flattering, and it’s a blessing that people saw that kind of potential in me.”
3. He Only Needs One Hand
I don’t know what’s more impressive, the catch, the double-move or that he kept his feet and toed the sidelines to score.
4. A Track Star
Typically wide receivers are either big or fast, not both. Wagner is the complete package. As a sprinter, he was the anchor of his school’s 4×100 team that finished fourth in Ohio’s largest division.
5. He Returns Kicks Too
Wagner really does do it all. In the Division I Sate Title, he returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. Wayne eventually fell to St. Edwards, that year’s National Champions, but it’s not for a lack of effort. He caught five passes for 55 yards, including an 11-yard fade for a first quarter touchdown.
6. A State Champion
He came up just short of a football state title, but was still able to get a ring on the basketball court. An all-state selection in both sports, he averaged 15 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks in his final two season of high school basketball.
7. He wasn’t bad at Iowa
In three years he started in 25 games for the Hawkeyes. Wagner shot over 50 percent and was named Iowa’s Most Improved Player following his sophomore season. A his minutes dwindled halfway through his junior season, the whispers for him to make the switch to football grew too loud to ignore.
8. Wagner Took Down P.J. Washington
One of the brightest moments from his high school prep career was against Kentucky Wildcat P.J. Washington. In 2015 Wayne earned an overtime victory over Findlay Prep, the undefeated No. 1 team in the nation that featured a roster full of future college stars: Arizona’s Alonzo Trier, UNLV’s Derryck Thornton, Maryland’s Justin Jackson and P.J. Washington. A small sample of Wagner’s best dunks from the tournament.
9. Not the First to Flip from Basketball to Football
The NFL is filled with superstars who did not play college football. Almost all of them have comparable size and athleticism to Wagner and they’re primarily tight ends — Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzales.
Wagner is different from the rest because he’s making the switch before his NCAA eligibility expires. George Fant played one season of football at WKU, but he plays more downs in one game as the Seahawks’ left tackle than he did for the Toppers. Wagner is also switching schools. If that’s happened before, I’d be shocked.
10. He Can Play Right Away
Usually D-I transfers can’t play right away. According to Jen Smith, Wagner’s case is different. He will reportedly be able to play right away and will have TWO years of eligibility. There’s only one appropriate reaction to this news: