Jalen Catalon made a special acquaintance this summer who likely made the reigning Class 5A state defensive MVP even better for the 2017 season.
The Mansfield Legacy defensive back attended a camp hosted by Dabo Swinney, coach of the defending College Football Champion Clemson Tigers, at Clemson University in July.
The camp allowed him to hone skills that led to a 2016 campaign which included 196 tackles, nine interceptions and two pick-sixes.
“I didn’t talk much to Dabo,” Catalon said. “But he said he was glad to have me at the campus.”
Never miss a local story.
Sign up today for a free 30 day free trial of unlimited digital access.
Catalon finished 2016 with seven pass break-ups, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery while helping lead the Broncos to an appearance in the regional semifinals and terrorizing opposing offenses in the process.
He really cares about his teammates and helps the younger players who are struggling. He is a great person with a great heart. He is a fierce competitor that hates to lose.
Legacy head coach Chris Melson on Jalen Catalon
Legacy coach Chris Melson said that Catalon has a way of making his presence felt all over the field.
“It is great having him at free safety,” Melson said. “He is in a position in which you can’t run away from him, and he closes off the middle of the field in the passing game.”
Melson said that Catalon’s abilities on the field are nearly unparalleled, but added that part of what makes him such a strong leader on the Legacy defense are his inner qualities.
“He really cares about his teammates and helps the younger players who are struggling,” Melson said. “He is a great person with a great heart. He is a fierce competitor that hates to lose.”
So does Catalon believe he could pick off last season’s Davey O’Brien award winner and former Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson? Not quite.
“DeShaun Watson is an amazing quarterback, so probably not,” Catalon said. “But hopefully I can keep developing and make it to the level he is on and have the opportunity to do that.”
One quarterback who was impressed with Catalon’s exploits on the field is Mansfield Lake Ridge all-district selection Jason Bean, who said that Catalon was a force to be reckoned with.
“He is not the tallest guy, but he plays like he’s 6’3”,” Bean said. “He hits hard and he’s fast. He’s just a really, really good player.”
Catalon said his expectations heading into 2017 are to take his game to the next level and help his team to pick up right where it left off last year.
“My goals for this season are to play my role and do what it takes to win a state championship,” Catalon said.
Just what that role will be is still a little unclear at this point, but one thing that is for certain from talking with Melson is that Catalon will have more of a hand in the offense this coming season.
“He is dangerous with the ball in his hands,” Melson said.
Jalen Catalon’s Favorites
Favorite Athlete: Bo Jackson
Favorite Team: Carolina Panthers
Favorite Food: Ribs
Favorite Movie: When the Game Stands Tall
Favorite TV Show: Big Bang Theory
Book Currently Reading: Bo Knows Bo
Favorite Musical Group: Migos