Glens Falls' favorite son was a sweet-shooting basketball prodigy as far back as most folks can remember.
But as a junior in high school, Jimmer Fredette shined as brightly on the gridiron as he did on the hardwood.
His superior play in the fall of 2005 earned him some attention from colleges for football, although everyone knew his heart was set on basketball.
"He had a letter from Penn State, every Ivy League school sent a letter asking to sit down with him," his father, Al, recalled. "A lot of them said ‘We know you'll probably play basketball, but...' He told them, ‘I'm flattered, but I know I'm going to play basketball.'"
Blessed with good size, breakaway speed and soft hands, Jimmer Fredette was an ideal wide receiver. He was a perfect fit in a big-play offense triggered by his best friend, quarterback Denny Wilhelm.
"I remember him being just a straight-out athlete - I could put the ball anywhere and he'd catch it," said Wilhelm, who spent the last few weeks visiting Fredette in Utah with Fredette's parents and brother, T.J. "He's one of the most gifted athletes I've ever known. He still is a lot quicker and faster than people give him credit for."
Just as he did in basketball, Jimmer Fredette came up through the ranks in football, starting out with his buddies as a kid in the Police Athletic League program.
"We always played football his back yard, and it was a small back yard - that's where he picked up his little moves," said Wilhelm, who also played basketball with Fredette. "We'd play two-hand touch and he'd run back a kick, and no one would get two hands on him."`
As a junior, with the double impact of making big plays and drawing double coverage, Fredette was a key figure in the Indians' 2005 season, which included a six-game winning streak. His electrifying 87-yard touchdown return of the opening kickoff set the tone for a stunning 33-27 upset of eventual state champion Amsterdam, a game in which Fredette accounted for 300 all-purpose yards and three scores.
He caught a Section II-best 43 passes for 910 yards and scored 15 total touchdowns - nine on plays of 40 yards or more, including kickoff, punt and fumble returns. He also started at outside linebacker.
"He was so explosive," Indians head coach Pat Lilac said. "I don't know how many 5-yard hitch routes he turned into 70-yard touchdowns. He doesn't look like he's running that fast - he's explosive, but he moves with such body control and smoothness it's deceptive.
"The most important thing was his competitiveness and his will to win," Lilac added. "He always had a knack for making big plays. Against South Glens Falls there was a fumble, and the ball fell right in his hands and he ran for a touchdown. Same thing against Queensbury on a blocked punt."
In the summer of 2006, GF Nation waited to see if, maybe, Jimmer Fredette might play football as a senior. He was, after all, the No. 1-rated receiver in New York state. Ultimately, he chose basketball, and Brigham Young University. The rest is history.
"I'm still a little mad he didn't play our senior year," Wilhelm said with a laugh. "I still get on his case about it."
"It was a little frustrating, knowing the best football player in the area was walking the hallways," Lilac recalled. "But we all knew his first love is basketball. I don't think anyone begrudged him; you knew he was a different situation."
Al Fredette said he had few concerns about Jimmer getting hurt playing football as a junior.
"We always said you can't live life worrying about things like that," he said. "His senior year, he just decided he wanted to concentrate on basketball.
"He always wanted to finish AAU season and go to nationals," he added, "but the AAU nationals usually are at the end of August or even the beginning of September. Then he'd have to go late to football and sit on the bench while he made up three weeks of practice."
Wilhelm said he always knew Jimmer would be on this stage, a basketball All-American at BYU.
"A lot of people didn't see us with the AAU City Rocks, when he was beating some of the best kids in the country," Wilhelm said. "He's the most focused kid you'll ever meet. I'm blessed to know him as my best friend. He's the same kid he was in kindergarten - he hasn't changed, and that's a good thing."