Days and nights spent alone staring at a screen might sound lonely, but they have helped David Bouvier get to this place.
The former Lexington Catholic standout — one of three Kentucky walk-ons made scholarship players on Monday night — now is being talked about as one of the Cats’ most consistent wide receivers.
“You want to talk about a guy making plays?” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said Tuesday. “As I go back through the whole camp right now, he’s our MVP. That young man is getting it, he’s making plays. He’s playing with energy, and just love that young man.”
At 5-foot-9, 168 pounds, Bouvier doesn’t necessarily look the part of Southeastern Conference standout. But he’s been willing to do some of the things that can help him turn into one.
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“I’ve worked on my routes, been running hard,” said Bouvier, who has played mostly on scout team for his Kentucky career, appearing in four games last season and in the Cats’ win over Austin Peay the season before that.
“I know what they want with the offense, worked hard in the film room especially. If you want to be good and be a better player, you better work hard in the film room.”
Bouvier has borrowed a page from the playbook of former UK walk-on-turned-warrior Charles Walker. As a senior last season, Walker had 15 catches for 180 yards, including several key catches in the middle of the field. Walker also was steady as a Kentucky punt returner.
On game days for the last two seasons, Walker and Bouvier always were roommates and they’re good friends.
“I wouldn’t mind being that,” Bouvier said of Walker after the Blue-White Spring Game. “But I am my own person and I hope to do well.”
Bouvier has started blazing his own trail this offseason, pestering quarterbacks for extra catches, trying to get as many reps in as possible.
His ability to not let one bad play turn into more bad plays in practice has been key, too.
“I guess I just try and make sure I bring it everyday, have a good mindset,” the senior said. “Even if I make mistakes, I’m going to make them full speed. If I have a bad play, I’m not going to think about what just happened, I’m just going to go on to the next play and move on.”
The climb from a standout at the high school level, where Bouvier set Lexington Catholic records in receptions (215) and receiving yards (3,156), to a scout-team player at UK has been difficult.
“Starting out as a walk-on is always hard,” Bouvier said in April. “You have to be perfect for practice, you’ve got to earn everything you’ve got. But I’m glad I stuck with it.”
Sticking with it has meant a new scholarship and perhaps a chance to live his dream of being a wide receiver and punt returner in the Southeastern Conference this final season of his career.
The senior definitely has earned the admiration of his coaches.
“David Bouvier is a warrior, a guy that I have a lot of admiration and respect for because of the way he plays the game,” UK wide receivers coach Michael Smith said.
“And he approaches everything he does in life. The kid attacks it in the classroom. He attacks it in our classroom. He’s a quiet leader who doesn’t say a lot of things, but by the way he approaches and attacks practice and every other thing he does in his life. In my eyes he’s had the best camp.”
Scouting the Cats
This is the sixth of nine stories looking at the 2018 Kentucky football team position by position.
Scouting the wide receivers
▪ The main man: There are a couple of candidates, but the most consistent player last season and one of the only true veterans in this group is junior Tavin Richardson, who had 27 catches for 371 yards and a touchdown last season.
▪ The supporting cast: If he can stay healthy, Kentucky is ready to welcome back senior Dorian Baker, who missed all of last season (ankle surgery) and parts of the season before (hamstring strain). But if the lengthy pass catcher can get back to his sophomore season-style stats of 608 yards and three touchdowns on 55 catches, then he could be a dangerous weapon on the outside for the Cats, who missed having one last year. There are a set of sophomores in Lynn Bowden, Josh Ali, Isaiah Epps and Clevan Thomas that have a year of experience and might be able to come on this year after showing flashes last season. Other possible play-makers include David Bouvier, who has become a top player in camp this fall, as well as intriguing, 6-foot-5 basketball transfer Ahmad Wagner, and Zy’Aire Hughes, who has the top-end speed, but is still gaining wide receiver experience after a season as a defensive back. Kentucky has a cast of true freshmen who have been competitive, but coaches are still waiting to see what they have in players like B.J. Alexander, Allen Dailey, Akeem Hayes and Bryce Oliver. “I’ve been impressed with their attitude,” Bouvier said of the newcomers. “They really come to work every day. They really want to be out there.”
▪ Outlook: After Kentucky’s first scrimmage, Coach Mark Stoops seemed especially displeased with the UK wide receivers. “I just feel like we’re very average there right now,” he said. “We have nobody stepping up and making great individual plays for them.” It may take a while for the new Cats quarterbacks to find a rhythm with a group that’s still figuring things out, too. But UK has some players who have made big plays in games like Baker, Richardson and Bowden and have a few more that look ready to take that next step. Time will tell if this is their year.