New Spartan CB Jalen Watts-Jackson Has Speed & Athletcism, but more importantly Character to be a Spartan
Q: Jalen, how are you brother?
A: Iâ€™m good. How about you?
Q: You have God-given defensive back skills. Do you realize how blessed you are?
A: Yeah, Iâ€™m just now starting to realize how blessed I am. Especially with this going on right now.
Q: Whatâ€™s the fastest youâ€™ve ever been timed in the 40?
A: About 4.47, 4.48.
Q: Did you learn the way you flip your hips from coaches or is that just a God-given instinct?
A: It came actually from coaches. I came to St. Maryâ€™s as a quarterback and they noticed like you said I could run and I could jump. Coach Phillips over at St. Maryâ€™s has been working with me making me into a DB and heâ€™s done a good job of it.
Q: Being from the state of Michigan, did you grow up a Spartan fan?
A: I actually did not grow up a Spartan fan.
Q: Were you a Michigan fan?
A: Yeah, but it was kinda forced upon me because I had family that went to Michigan, and that was all you see around you was blue and gold. As I started to develop my own thing, my own team, I became more towards the Spartans.
Q: Youâ€™re not gonna have any problems turning them to the green and white now, are ya?
A: Oh no, no, no, no. Not at all. Theyâ€™re with me 100%. When I explained to them why I wanted to be at Michigan Stateâ€¦they had my back on this decision.
Q: What did you tell them? Why did you wanna be a Spartan?
A: They already knew. Last year I started talking to them about State, sophomore year, about halfway through. And then last year I kinda dipped off and went under the radar due to injuries and stuff. While I was going through that I was still in contact with Coach Salem and stuff like that. The fact that even though I wasnâ€™t having my best season he was still in contact with me, still talking to me, that was big. Because a lot of schools stopped talking to me during that time. So it made me feel like they were there for me still, even though I wasnâ€™t having my best year and they would still give me a fair chance at coming to State. Then I got to go up and meet other coaches like Coach Harlon Barnett and Coach Dantonio. They just were really great guys who just made me feel accepted into the school.
Q: Youâ€™re right, you are flying a little bit under the radar because of injuries. Talk about them.
A: Yeah, it was a terrible situation. My first injury came about three weeks before the season. I had a high ankle sprain, I was supposed to sit out for about three games but I ended up playing the first game. I ended up playing through it. It was hard and stuff though. I wasnâ€™t able to play at my best, to my full ability. And then as I was started to recover from that, about the seventh game we were playing De LaSalle, I dove for a pass and separated my shoulder. And that set me back. I missed a game for that. It was terrible. It was just injury after injury. But Iâ€™ve recovered from my injuries and Iâ€™m ready to go again so hopefully I can get people back on my side and show them that I was gone for a reason.
Q: Youâ€™re feeling the love from the Spartan Nation now.
Q: Do you like the idea that your head coach is also a former DB coach and played it in college?
A: Yeah, because a lot of players probablyâ€¦ When I went to Toledo and I was talking to a player and he was like, Yeah mainly youâ€™re gonna be with your strength conditioning coach and your position coach. That allows me to build a good bond with the head coach because heâ€™s also gonna be my position coach. I feel like that will allow for a great bond and will help a lot.
Q: Have you went on YouTube and seen how good Harlon Barnett was?
A: I actually have not, but I got a sense of it at the camp. So I can only imagine.
Q: He was a headhunter, an All-American and had a good NFL career. I think thatâ€™s a good guy to learn from.
A: Yeah, me too.
Q: Do you like to step up and hit or are you a cornerback that doesnâ€™t really like contact?
A: Well, playing in the Catholic League you have no choice but to come up and tackle them. We stress that a lot at our school. We play against these huge running backs from Catholic Central, Brother Rice. You have no choice but to step up and tackle them. Iâ€™ve kinda started to like tackling.
Q: You do a terrific job of getting to the ball at its highest point. Again, is that something that has naturally come to you or just because of the great coaching at St. Maryâ€™s?
A: Iâ€™d also have to give that to my coaching at St. Maryâ€™s. Iâ€™ve been playing both sides of the ball, receiver and I got the same coach, Jeff Phillips. Every time, even if a pass is coming straight down at you, he always tells you highest point...the highest point of the ball. So itâ€™s become a habit now.
Q: Was part of what you liked about Michigan State is that they get defensive backs in the NFL?
A: I actually didnâ€™t know that until today. When I found that out I was like, Alright yeah. I need to get into this school.
Q: Do you know what you wanna major in?
Q: What do you wanna do?
A: I wanna study Marine Biology.
Q: Youâ€™re gonna be one of those guys working with the orcas at Sea World, arenâ€™t ya?
A: Yeah, thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m trying to do.
Q: You come from a special group of people. Brag on your family for a minute.
A: Iâ€™m currently living with my dad, but weâ€™re still a really close family all of us together. My uncle takes care of all of my recruiting, all of myâ€¦getting me to camps and stuff. I get a little support from everybody, whether itâ€™s help getting me to camp, signing me up, stuff like that. Itâ€™s a really close family. When I made my decision I had to make sure I made it with everyone, not just my parents.
Q: You overcame injury and earned that scholarship. What does it mean to be a Spartan to you?
A: Itâ€™s really exciting. When I came into St. Maryâ€™s freshman year I would have never thought I would be committed to Michigan State. Itâ€™s crazy. Iâ€™m still letting it settle in right now.
Q: What do you think you gotta get better at over the next year before you get on campus?
A: Before I get on campus I definitely need to improve my strength. Iâ€™m strong enough, but I can be stronger. I definitely wanna be working on my strength and probably I can better my footwork. I have good footwork but thereâ€™s always room for improvement. So those are the two things Iâ€™ll probably be working on the most.
Q: How tall are you right now, Jalen?
Q: How much do you weigh?
A: 180 lbs.
Q: So youâ€™re getting up there, youâ€™re growing.
A: Yeah yeah yeah, I am.
Q: What do you think of Michigan Stateâ€™s alternate uniforms, the Pro Combat uniforms and chrome helmets. Do you like them?
A: Oh yeah, I really do. I looked at them today when I was going through The Duffy. Seeing them up close, actually up closeâ€¦
Q: Your phone went out a little bit. So you like them?
A: Yeah, I do.
Q: If one of your teacherâ€™s at Orchard Lake St. Maryâ€™s sat you down and had you write one sentence that says what being a Spartan means to you, what does it mean?
A: Me being a Spartan means becoming a better man, having a great future.
Q: Some media have called you a soft verbal to Michigan State, meaning you may still be looking. I donâ€™t believe thatâ€™s accurate. Are you committed to Michigan State or are you still looking at other places?
A: Iâ€™m fully committed to Michigan State. This is where I wanna be for the next four years.
Q: Youâ€™ve worked hard; youâ€™ve battled through. You truly are the embodiment of what it means to be a Spartan. Congratulations, young man.
A: Alright, thank you so much.