Coming to Arizona State as a wide-eyed freshman in 2014, Jalen Harvey will be the first to admit he needed time for his maturation process to occur.
While his clear swagger stood out in a crowd, he spent his first year on the sidelines, redshirting due to a talented group of wide receivers in front of him--namely Jaelen Strong, D.J. Foster and Cameron Smith.
It was after this year that coaches told Harvey to “stop taking things for granted” and to really focus on learning and getting better. With the choice all his own, Harvey decided despite his humorous disposition, when it comes to football, he’s all business.
“I just got in my playbook more and started taking stuff seriously and I’m a funny guy, but when it came to football I just got to take it serious and I think (tight ends) coach Del Alexander has helped with that too,” Harvey said.
And while Harvey’s swagger is unchanged going into his sophomore year, it’s his production and evolution as a scrappy, aggressive player that has him vying for a starting spot in his third year with the program.
“I think he has the most heart and monster in him in the receiving corps and he shows it on the field and he doesn’t allow anyone to tell him anything,” junior wide receiver Ellis Jefferson said. “And he’s just grown so much from a freshman to what he is now and it’s shown on the field.”
After redshirting in 2014, last year Harvey’s season was cut short before it really even started. The Northern California native broke his collarbone during the Camp Tontozona scrimmage in August and the injury kept him out for eight weeks.
“He (Harvey)’s had some setbacks because of his collarbone and everything, but I always knew he would be a big time player because of where he is from,” Jefferson said.
When Harvey finally did return from injury in ASU’s Nov. 7 game against Washington State, he played only on special teams and was used sparingly at wide receiver for the final games of the season.
Finishing 2015 with four catches for 77 yards, Harvey’s sole touchdown came during the second quarter of the Territorial Cup against Arizona on Nov. 21.
But despite only four collegiate catches to his name, Harvey showed flashes of a potential breakout year last spring. Not only was Harvey making plays in the air, but he was doing the gritty work--blocking for his teammates.
“Blocking, my motto is ‘If you don’t block, you don’t get the rock,” Harvey said. “You got to block for your teammates and I pride myself with that. I don’t want nobody to block for me and then I get hit.”
Following this “you then me” attitude, Harvey was having a fantastic fall camp before suffering an injury on Aug. 9 that forced him to wear a walking boot on his right foot.
Harvey was able to ditch the boot a few days later, but still was limited during practice and wore a green non-contact jersey. It’s only in recent practices that Harvey has been out of green and started to practice normally again.
“It’s just the dog that you kind of have to have in you,” Harvey said. “I just come out here every day with it and especially on special teams because there isn’t a lot of wide outs out there on special teams so (special teams) coach (Shawn) Slocum got me out there because of my dog in me.”
Harvey, 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, is fighting for first-team reps at wide receiver alongside Smith. In recent practices, first-team reps have gone to Smith, Jefferson and senior wide receiver Tim White.
“He (Smith) is coming back from injury too so it’s just everyone getting into the groove,” Harvey said. “I’m not really worried about who is starting or who is going to play. Coach knows who will fill in the rotation and who to put in so I’m not really worried about that. Cam and me are just going back to back out there and pushing each other.”
Harvey said he has been attacking every aspect of the season, including studying, asking questions, staying after to watch film and catching the ball after practice with the other wide receivers.
"He (Harvey) doesn't get a minute off, and he comes to work everyday," wide receivers coach Jay Norvell said. "You know what you're going to get out of him. That really as a coach, is what we expect is that you come everyday and you punch a clock and you work hard."
Harvey is one of the more physical, gritty players on the team and said he prides himself in being one of the few tough-minded wide outs. Playing to his strengths, sometimes he even takes the field with a defensive mindset.
“I don’t really let the defensive player come and block me and put their head into me,” Harvey said. “I’m kind of aggressive out there as a wide receiver and I feel like a lot of wide outs aren’t out there like that.”