Through his first two NFL seasons, Destrehan High alumnus Justin Jefferson has tallied 3,016 receiving yards.
That’s the most receiving yards through a player’s first two seasons in NFL history – by more than 250 yards over the second-place mark set by Odell Beckham Jr.
Jefferson is routinely noted at or near the top of the NFL’s best wide receivers, and on Sunday he showed why again as the season kicked off. His Minnesota Vikings hosted Aaron Rodgers and their archrival Green Bay Packers, and Jefferson piled up 9 receptions for 184 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-7 victory.
As difficult as it might be to improve on his 1,600-plus yard, 10 touchdown sophomore season, it might be even more difficult to bet against Jefferson doing just that: he seems to grow by leaps and bounds as a player every single season, dating back to high school.
“It’s no surprise to me he’s playing that well in the NFL,” said NFL analyst Mike Detillier, who has watched Jefferson play since his Destrehan days. “He grew up just miles from my Bayou home. He’s one of the most competitive, toughest and most driven players I’ve been around in 35 years of scouting.. He’s stud player and clutch … Because he didn’t quite have his grades in order he wasn’t highly recruited, but Coach O and I had spoke and he told me ‘Justin will get his grades right and he’s going to be special here at LSU.’ Damn right, he was.”
Jefferson blossomed as an upperclassman at Destrehan and went on to sign with LSU, where he quickly found a rapport with quarterback – and future No. 1 overall pick – Joe Burrow. He helped guide LSU to a national championship as a junior, when he recorded 111 receptions for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. As a sophomore, he caught 54 passes for 875 yards and six touchdowns.
He was chosen in the first round, 22nd overall by Minnesota in 2020. Despite the elimination of most preseason activities across the NFL due to COVID-19, he adjusted to the highest level of competition instantly. His 1,400 yards was an all-time high amongst NFL rookie wide receivers in the Super Bowl era, a record broken after just one season by his former NFL teammate and current Cincinatti Bengal Ja’Marr Chase in 2021.
Last season, he expanded his game and his statistics, catching 108 passes for 1,616 yards and 10 touchdowns.
At Destrehan – as was the case later at LSU – Jefferson was the third among his brothers to take the field with the program, following in the footsteps of brothers Jordan and Rickey.
Jefferson initially was a quarterback with the team, but his role changed as his body did – Justin grew from a 5-foot-7, 155-pound player as a freshman passer to eventually round into a 6-foot-3, 185-pound collegiate prospect at wide receiver.
His father John credited Jordan with being one of the first to recognize what Justin was on the cusp of.
“Jordan was able to spend a lot of time with Justin working with him … he and I both saw him developing,” John said. “He’s getting taller. He’s getting that extra burst, strength and quickness. Jordan told me, ‘Justin’s putting himself on the radar and if he keeps working like he is, he can be a phenomenal player.’”
Justin had a tremendous senior season with the Wildcats, evolving into a go-to player. LSU noticed, and head coach Ed Orgeron made a promise: if Justin did what he had to in the classroom, he’d have a spot waiting for him with the Tigers.
“They saw something in him,” said former Destrehan head coach Stephen Robicheaux, who coached Jefferson during his time at DHS. “They saw it early. LSU had the confidence in him to hold a scholarship for him.”
LSU’s coaches began to notice. Former LSU assistant coach and current Arizona Cardinals assistant Jerry Sullivan told Robicheaux, during the latter’s visit to Baton Rouge after Justin’s freshman year, that he believed Justin would one day “play on Sundays” in the NFL.
He’s done that, and then some.
After the Packers/Vikings game, Packers QB and two-time reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers called Jefferson “the best player in the game” on Sunday, and compared Jefferson favorably with longtime Packer wide receiver and Rodgers’ favorite Davante Adams, who now plays for the Las Vegas Raiders. It was high praise from Rodgers, who has long noted Adams as the league’s best wide receiver.
Others have noticed as well.
Through it all, Jefferson has not forgotten his home. He’s routinely returned to his native St. Rose to promote the importance of fitness to the community’s youth. And in March, he dedicated brand new fitness equipment to Parquet Park in St. Rose, the playground recently established by Ed Reed and his foundation.
Reed, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, might be the greatest former Wildcat of all time. While Jefferson still has a long way to go to join Reed in the Hall, he’s off to as strong a start as there’s ever been.
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