ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Jeoffrey Pagan transferred to Asheville (N.C.) from crosstown rival AC Reynolds after his sophomore season.
He came as a wide receiver. He'll leave as a four-star defensive and now as a U.S. Army All-American after receiving his jersey Friday afternoon in a presentation at his high school's gym.
"That's a memory I'll never forget," Pagan told Rivals.com following the event. "It's such an honor. I'm glad my family and friends were all here to see it."
The Florida commit will participate in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas in the middle of December and then he'll be seen on national television on January 8, 2011 at 1 p.m. ET on NBC in the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
"It means a lot that I'm part of such a strong group and strong individuals," Pagan added.
Through hard work and a position change, the 6-foot-4, 270-pounder worked his way into such lofty status.
"You don't ever know if they'll be an All-American," Asheville coach Danny Wilkins said. "And in the first couple of games (as a junior) you couldn't really tell because he had never played with his hand on the ground. When we got him over we worked him some at receiver since we knew he was with their receiving corps. Then we worked him some as a back-up tight end behind the (Trevor) Sawyer kid who is at Appalachian State now. Eventually he had to play some fullback because of injuries.
"Playing defensive end with his hand down, all of sudden things started with his explosiveness and with his takeoff - his size, leverage, all of those things. And then he became a playmaker," coach Wilkins said. "Dropping him into coverage in zone blitz situations and covering guys smaller than him in man-to-man situations. The receiving, all those games playing that, maybe made him a better player with his skill level."
One play put him on the map to stay.
"Picking off a slant pattern at the line of scrimmage and then outrunning everybody 85 yards for a touchdown in the Reynolds game last year," Wilkins said. "That's one of the biggest and best plays I've seen anybody make. He's got a bright future in front of him."
As a junior, Pagan racked up 54 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 15 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, five pass breakups, two interceptions with 85 yards in returns and 3.5 sacks. On offense he rushed 18 times for 137 yards and two touchdowns and caught six passes for 37 yards and a touchdown.
The athletic defender ran a 4.63-second 40-yard dash last spring and currently bench presses 325 pounds, squats 365, holds a 2.65 GPA and recently broke his school's power clean record by putting up 325 pounds.
Over two dozen schools offered and last spring the nation's No. 3 weakside defensive end verbally pledged to the University of Florida.
"I just really felt like I was home there," Pagan said. "I got along with all of the coaches and players there. It just seems like that's somewhere I can go that can better me as a player and more as a man. Somewhere also where when I'm not playing football I can enjoy myself and have fun."
The honor of getting selected to such a prestigious event and its importance goes beyond the player.
"It definitely lets people know that there are great athletes and great coaches here at Asheville," Pagan said.
The largest city in western North Carolina, with just over 75,000 people, located in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, has had its share of talented athletes. Pagan grew up attending Cougar games on Friday nights and watching the then talk of the town, option quarterback Crezdon Butler, and his running mate, tailback Johnny White.
The duo rewrote the record books rushing a combined 1236 times for 10,152 yards and 149 touchdowns from 2003 to 2005 capping their careers with a state championship as seniors. Butler now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers after starting for Clemson for three years, and White currently leads North Carolina in rushing and touchdowns as the Tar Heels' starting tailback.
Still, Pagan is the school's first U.S. Army All-American.
"It does represent our school, our team, our program, our community, our coaches and the alumni here that continue to come to our games and support us," Wilkins said. "We are a small community and a small school in a small town. Like in a lot of those small towns there's a lot of pride when something good happens and this is extraordinarily good. We've had some great players to come out of here and for Jeoffrey to be the first to be recognized as an All-American and play in that game is just a tremendous honor. We feel very blessed that that's happened for us."