LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Lamar Jackson wasn't the only high school player from Southeastern Florida in the University of Louisville's 2015 football recruiting class.
And Jackson also wasn't the best player.
The best prospect, according to the recruiting gurus, was Devante Peete. Jackson arrived from Boynton Beach, Peete from Fort Lauderdale, about 30 miles down the East coast.
Jackson was rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports, the 409th best prospect in the nation. Peete earned that sexy fourth star, making him the nation's 327th best prospect and No. 40 receiver.
They were suite-mates. They played Pee Wee ball together when they were 5 years old, working out through junior high and high school.
They talked about playing together in college -- and followed through after Peete turned down offers from Clemson, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Miami, Florida State and others. Peete and Jackson remain friends, texting or video-chatting nearly every day.
"He tells me all the time that I'm very good, better than I think I am," Peete said. "I've just got to keep working. He knows the things to say to motivate me."
They are no longer suite-mates. Haven't been for several years because Jackson rolled out of U of L with a Heisman Trophy after the 2017 season. The Baltimore Ravens are depending on Jackson to lead them back to the NFL playoffs.
Peete is one of five guys remaining from what many say was Bobby Petrino's finest recruiting class, a 26-player group that 247Sports ranked the 33rd best in the country.
"I remember one night we were lying in our rooms as freshmen and Lamar said, 'Man, you're running with the ones and I'm running with the threes,'" Peete said, before laughing. "It was crazy."
Here's what is even crazier: Given the opportunity to leave or give up, Peete chose to return to the U of L for his fifth season and try to help the new coaching staff and teammates fix everything that was broken the last two seasons.
"I didn't want to leave that taste in my mouth," Peete said. "I got a better opportunity to do what I do with the new coaching staff.
"I think it's a blessing on a personal level to be around a guy like Coach (Gunter) Brewer who has been coaching for 30 years. He coached Randy Moss. He coached Dez Bryant. He coached Justin Blackmon.
"He's got over 10 or 15 guys in the NFL. Getting his energy and knowledge and everything that he knows about the game, the things that he can add to my game, help me get better on the smaller things."
This has not been easy for Peete. Not one bit.
As a freshman he caught a dozen passes, including a 37-yarder against Clemson and a touchdown pass against North Carolina State. When the Cards opened the season against Auburn, Peete was a legitimate part of the game plan, leading the receivers with 60 yards on three catches.
As a sophomore, he was de-emphasized as a receiver and given more opportunities on special teams, where he blocked a punt and made 10 tackles.
Jackson was no longer running with the third team. He won the Heisman Trophy.
As a junior, Peete suffered a torn ACL several weeks into fall camp. Although Peete did not play a snap, he was voted a team captain for the second consecutive season.
Last year, he danced in and out of the starting lineup, catching 21 passes for 250 yards. Peete started seven games. He should have done more. He believes that he could have done more.
What happened to the four-star recruit, the powerful 6-foot-6, 213-pound target who showed he could make catches on the sidelines or in the crowded middle of the field?
"Personally I think I had a lack of opportunity," Peete said. "I think Coach Petrino believed in me, but I don't think he believed in my full potential."
New Louisville coach Scott Satterfield and Brewer, the receivers coach, have made it a priority to believe in every player, especially the guys who chose to return when they could have left. Peete is convinced you will notice a difference in the Louisville football team this season, starting with the Sept. 2 opener against Notre Dame.
"We're not putting our heads down when something doesn't go right," he said.
"We kind of use this little phrase that the small guy is on your shoulder with all the distractions and negativity. Once you knock that guy off your shoulder, you can accomplish everything that you want.
"Personally I think it's kind of better being the underdog. We all got that taste in our mouth of being 2-10 last year, everyone in that locker room knows how it feels to be at the bottom. I think that's our biggest drive. I think you'll see a big difference."
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