Jalen McCleskey: His Coach’s Take

Jalen McCleskey, the son of former NFL player J.J. McCleskey, caught 24 passes for 274 yards and six touchdowns this past season for St. Paul’s Catholic School in Covington, La. With National Signing Day around the corner (Feb. 4), we visited with the Saint Paul’s Catholic School coach Ken Sears about McCleskey and his future with the OSU Cowboys.

What are Jalen’s strengths as a football player?
Sears: First off, he’s a very hard worker. He’s a great route runner. He’s got great ball skills. He’s the type of kid who will go up and get the football. He can jump out of a gym. He’s a very good athlete who is very dedicated to his sport. He’s an all-around good key. He’s not one of these kids who has a bunch of ability and slacks. He really works hard on a daily basis, works hard to improve his skills. Ever since he was a sophomore I’ve just seen him progressively get better every year.

What are the areas that he’ll need to improve to play in the Big 12 Conference?
Sears: His size. He’s gotten bigger. He’s about 5-10 and weighs about 175. But he certainly needs to put on some muscle around that frame. But he’s a dedicated kid. I’m sure when the strength and conditioning guys get him they’ll take care of that.

Is there one play or one game that you’ll always remember about Jalen?
Sears: We played a tough game this year against Fountainbleu and a game against our rival Covington where he just made a couple of incredible catches, just went up and got the ball. If it wasn’t for his ability I don’t know if he would have ever made either play, and they were the difference in the game. He just showed tremendous desire in both situations. We came away with a W in those games and I don’t know if we would have won those if he wouldn’t have come down with those catches and scored touchdowns.

Why do you think he chose Oklahoma State?
Sears: I know he went up there for his visits and liked the coaching staff. He really was impressed with Coach Dunn, and I think he built a relationship from there. I think he just felt a comfortable level and liked the offense. Obviously, Oklahoma State is a good place for a receiver because they are going to throw the ball a lot. The offense fits him perfectly.

What type of person is Jalen away from football? Can you talk a little bit about his character traits?
Sears: He’s a pretty good student. Our school academically is pretty tough. We are a boys Catholic school and probably considered one of the tougher schools in the state of Louisiana as far as academics. He gets pretty good grades and works hard at it. He’s a pretty good kid and takes care of his business in the classroom.

What will you remember the most about coaching him?
Sears: His ability to get open and run routes, along with his work ethic. He’s an incredible route runner and has the ability to shake people and get open. He’s definitely has a knack. He was way ahead of the curve when he started playing for us.

How much of an influence has his dad, former NFL player J.J. McCleskey, had on him?
Sears: His dad is a tremendous influence in his life and certainly he probably had a higher football IQ than most kids coming into my program. That was probably a factor.

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