Ask Jim Grobe what he is happiest about, and the Wake Forest head coach will say Chris Givens is his greatest pleasure and joy, and rightfully so, but this was not always the case. Going into the season Grobe was frustrated with the redshirt junior from Wylie, Texas.
In the past Givens was known for having an attitude problem, and for milking injuries.
"Back earlier in the spring I did not think that Chris would be our go-to-guy this fall unless he changed his work habits, and attitude, and all those," Grobe said. "He's doing all of the good things. He's practicing good. He's showing some toughness. He works through bumps and bruises. I haven't heard a word from Ethan Reeve our strength coach about him."
Toughness, Grobe said it, Givens is one tough Texan. The 6-foot and 195-pound wide receiver has battled through AC-joint problems in his shoulder all season, never missing a game. The redshirt junior wants to be on the field to help his team, and provide the leadership it needs.
"Mainly I've been so selfish," Givens said. "I wasn't the best teammate in the past years. I was too worried about Chris and Chris only, and this summer I stayed up here for the whole summer, worked hard, took classes, and got my priorities back in the right place. I just get everybody motivated, and we're all on the same goal, focused and everything. Fortunately it's turning out well for me."
Givens has responded to his team's need for a big-time player, scoring Wake Forest's three longest touchdowns of the season, one of which was his 66-yard game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter at Duke Saturday.
"He's a great receiver, and he really stepped up and made a play when we needed it most," Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price said of Givnes after the Deacs win at Duke. "Big players make big plays in big games, and he did that today."
The Texas product's play has catapulted him on to the national scene. Givens leads the ACC in receiving yards (886) and receiving yards per game (126.6), second in yards per catch (19.3), tied for second in touchdown receptions (eight), third in receptions per game (6.6) and fourth in receptions (46). He is tied for fifth in the FBS in yards and touchdowns.
He is in elite company, even within the ACC. Just for the sake of names here are a few studs he competes with to stuff stat sheets: Clemson's Sammy Watkins, North Carolina's Dwight Jones and Duke's Conner Vernon. Despite being in a world of competitors Givens has earned the ACC Receiver of the Week award three times this season.
His college career has been a scatter plot of up and down trends, but Givens is on pace for an All-America and Biletnikoff Award type of season. As a freshman he earned College Football News second team Freshman All-America honors after catching 45 passes for 629 yards and eight touchdowns, but underwent went a sophomore slump in 2010. Givens was suspended for the season opener against Presbyterian, and his stat-line dropped to 35 receptions for 514 yards and four touchdowns.
The receiver saw that his way was not working, and began putting his teammates first.
"It was a few conversations over the spring with coach just about maturing and doing the right thing and trying to be the best leader I could be," Givens said. "This summer I really focused on my game, on every aspect of my game, trying to get faster, stronger, catch more balls, and everything I could do to be a complete receiver."
Grobe said he has not only matured into a fine player, but has also become a better person.
"The best thing about Chris is he gets all the team stuff now," Grobe said. "He cares more about his team. He's more into his teammates. He's more into winning. It's not about how many catches. It's not about touchdowns. It's all about being a good teammate and helping the team win. That's made him a better player. He's not focused on himself. He's focused on his teammates. There's not anything right now with Chris that I'm not happy with."
For Givens it means everything to have a coach like Grobe in his corner, encouraging and challenging him to be better and work hard. This attitude change in Givens is what makes Grobe's heart sing, and it can only make it better that the receiver is catching balls and scoring touchdowns.