3:55 AM EST, March 9, 2010
It's too bad players are not judged on hard work, determination and fearlessness.
Well, actually, I suppose they are, unless of course they're 5-foot-5 on their tip-toes. Then they are just judged on being 5-foot-5 (* -- or closer to 5-foot-3, depending on who you ask).
"I've coached 18 years and I've never seen a better athlete than Jalen," Bishop Moore football coach Matt Hedrick said Monday about his diminutive slotback/kick returner Jalen Singleton.
In a word, Singleton is amazing. Watch his highlight reel and it's full of moves that leave defenders in his wake, scratching their heads, wondering to themselves, "I thought I had him."
He scoots through piles of bigger, stronger, bulkier blocking and tackling types as if he's a greased pig. But as pigs go, Jalen Singleton is the runt of the litter, a Class of 2010 litter filled with 6-foot, 200-pound running backs who can make a scout's head spin in just trying to determine which one is better than the other.
This litter, however, also makes it easy on the scouts. If you don't get one, there's always another.
"I understand it," says Hedrick. "Like for a linebacker, it's easy to justify signing a 6-3, 225-pound guy who doesn't pan out. But how do you justify a 5-6, 5-7, 190-pound linebacker who doesn't pan out?"
And right now there aren't a lot of recruiters at the NCAA Division-IA level who want to take that chance.
"We're talking about guys whose jobs are on the line," Hedrick said.
Hedrick, however, might put his on the line to vouch for Singleton. He was an every-down player for Hedrick, averaging 20 carries a game, and also played defensive back. He easily led the Orlando area in carries with 183 total totes.
He rushed for more than 2,500 yards over the past two seasons, including 1,166 his senior year. He also had a career-best 248-yard game against South Sumter in his final season.
Singleton knows he's got what it takes, if only he could get that break.
"Sometimes it gets very stressful," Singleton said of the constant talk about his stature. "I know 5-5 is not the ideal height for a football player, but you just have to fight through it.
"People go too much off measurements instead of raw talent."
You have to excuse him if he fudges a bit on his height. He's somewhat of a freak of nature at 5-foot-3, 155 pounds.
It's easy to see that Singleton has all of the tools to run the football. He does everything the big backs do and he's usually the fastest man on the football field. He even ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash at one scouting combine.
"Skill-wise, there's no issue with Jalen whatsoever," Hedrick said.
But can he block?
"I have no idea," Hedrick said. "We never asked him to do it. We gave him the ball 25 times a game.
"But you do have to wonder with a 5-3, 5-4 kid, how do you expect him to pick up a 240-pound rusher off the end? So they have to concern themselves about what they do with him when they give the ball to someone else."
Yes Hedrick understands the process and doesn't necessarily agree with everything, but it's hard to argue logic. But sometimes it just depends on trends.
"If someone from a Division I school were to come in here and make Jalen an offer, he'd have three or four more within the week," Hedrick said. "Sometimes you just have to get lucky. It's hard placing some of these kids sometimes."
Right now he's gotten interest from schools like Division II Mars Hill and random junior colleges. Hedrick says he has the grades and that shouldn't be an issue.
It's not always the best thing to be tall, however.
Consider Tampa Plant RB-DE/LB James Wilder Jr., the No. 1 ranked player in the state in the Sentinel's 2011 Florida Top 100.
Colleges are drooling over this specimen of an athlete, who stands in at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds. He rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns for state champion Tampa Plant last year. People will talk for years about the 42-yard TD run he had in the 2009 title game when he bowled over three would-be Manatee tacklers in one blow en route to the end zone. College coaches, however, want him on defense. He had 125 tackles last season at an average of 10 per game. He also led the Plant defense with 17 sacks and blocked three kicks.
But he wants to play running back, like his father, the longtime Tampa Bay Bucs running back of the same name.
USC, Miami and Missouri (where his father played) all have told him he could run the ball. He'll just have to decide where he wants to go. But of his 20+ offers, you'd think a guy like Wilder could have his choice of college.
Singleton knows the feeling, although he has far fewer choices than Wilder. Like Hedrick said, however, luck sometimes has a way of evening things out.
As the runt of the litter, perhaps Singleton will find his own Web-spinning spider. If he did, it would surely spin words like "Terrific Pig."
Chris Hays is the recruiting coordinator for the Orlando Sentinel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2013, Orlando Sentinel