Even before he played a down of football at Pierce College, Jaelen Strong was already attracting several suitors, including Arizona State. An impressive freshman season for the Brahmas has done anything but silence the wide receiver’s recruiting activity. The 6-4 200-pound Strong recorded 1,263 yards in ten games scoring 15 touchdowns and averaging 18.9 yards a catch.
The Sun Devils were able to distinguish themselves early in the recruiting process, which naturally helped them land one of the most coveted West Coast wide receivers in the 2013 class.
“My decision could have been done anytime between Christmas and signing day,” Strong said. “No school has showed me more love than Arizona State. They have been around for so long. I came from nothing and I know that the ASU coaches can give me everything that I need in football and in academics. I checked each coach’s background there and I saw the type of men they were. I talked to players at Arizona State who told me that this would be a good fit for me.
“I know they may be strict down there, but discipline is needed sometimes to be successful.”
Strong feels that this pledge he made to ASU today really symbolizes the mutual trust that has been building between both sides.
“They have been committed to me for a long time,” Strong explained. “They have kept their word to me on several things. I never ever caught one coach in a lie. (Offensive Coordinator) Coach Mike Norvell is not only a coach to me, but also a good friend and mentor. When you have someone like that in your corner fighting for you that means a whole lot.
“I do trust him and I do trust that he can have me out of school in June.”
The wide receiver initially planned to only graduate Pierce College in December of 2013 and thus be part of the 2014 class. Yet, with 27 credits left to complete for his degree Strong was give an academic plan both by his school counselors and ASU that could assist him in graduating in June and become eligible for the 2013 season.
“I've come across a lot of challenges,” Strong noted. “I lost my dad when I was 9 years old, I lost my aunt when I was 16 years old. Life is all about challenges and if you run away from challenges you will never succeed. With school, God is telling me that I can deal with that challenge if I put my all in it.
“I told the Arizona State coaches before that I don’t know if I can get out in time to play in the fall (of 2013). But they sat down with me and helped me out with a plan and that got me excited and motivated. I just need to keep my eyes on the prize. It’s like a football game. If you give 100 percent, you will look over your shoulder and the ball will be thrown to you at the right spot. So, in school if I give my all it won’t be a problem for me being a Sun Devil in the fall.”
The wide receiver is very good friends with another coveted prospect, running back David Williams, who ASU has been recruiting in earnest for a while now. The battle to secure a commitment from Williams is guaranteed to be fierce, however Strong is more than happy to help the cause and try and have his friend join forces with him in Tempe.
“Me and David are flying together on to L.A. on Sunday for an All-Star game (Semper Fi),” Strong said. “So between the 30th and January 4th, the day he supposed to commit, I will be with him every day and you better believe I will be talking to him about coming with me to Arizona State.”
Not only is Strong a high caliber prospect, but he also gives the Sun Devils a much needed boost in a position of need. Judging by his junior college stats his impact with ASU could be felt sooner rather than later.
“With all the good running backs they have I feel that maybe the wide receivers don’t get respect there,” Strong said. “I feel that with the wide receivers that Arizona State is getting they are going to have to respect us more now. Teams can’t just stop the run and not worry about the wide receivers like they used to, because guys like and my teammate (and ASU commit) Joe Morris are going help them have a good passing game.”
Strong said that Head Coach Todd Graham was the first Sun Devil coached he called to deliver his decision.
“He was very happy and said that this was the best Christmas gift,” Strong recalled. “Being home and talking to my mom, who met Coach Graham, and talking to mentors in my church – we were all on the same page as far as what I needed to do. We all agreed that this was the place to go to.
“I felt that everybody had my back and that I had a great support system, and that has made my decision easy.”