TEMPE, Ariz. — Fans, media and coaches have seen it before on Saturdays and Sundays during football games. A receiver catches a big pass and responds with the “keep feeding me” gesture — pretending to hold a spoon and eating a football as if it has significant nutritional value.
The same applies to Jaelen Strong’s never-ending hunger to learn, develop and exceed his own extremely high expectations. The 19-year-old wide receiver from Philadelphia has emerged as a student of the game — wanting to know everything there is to being an unstoppable threat at his position.
After Monday’s practice, one reporter suggested to him he’s one of the best wide receivers in the Pac-12. Another one believed he’s the best pass catcher that has donned maroon and gold in nearly a decade. His own head coach placed him on a elite pedestal, accompanying USC’s Marqise Lee.
Just don’t tell him that expecting a thank you, yet.
“I just got here and I have a lot to accomplish. I’m not very pleased with what I’ve done so far because I can do a lot more. I am only 19 years old, so I have a lot of time to grow and correct my mistakes,” he said.
Both he and coach Todd Graham give a lot of the credit to assistant coaches Mike Norvell and DelVaughn Alexander in getting him ready for the D-1 stage.
“Our offensive staff has done a phenomenal job in transitioning players,” says Graham. “We take great pride in that.”
He too feels the same way Strong does about what he is capable of becoming for the Sun Devil program.
“He’s just scratching the surface…he’s been slowed by nagging injuries early on and Taylor [Kelly] just starting throwing the ball to him in August, so they’re going to get a lot better.”
Graham asserts that Strong’s role models growing up have helped him become the humble student of the game that he is today.
“The reason that he has been able to do it is because if you can meet his grandfather and his mother, you’d know why. This guy has got character.”
While a lot of the attention surrounds him and his individual success, Strong maintains his focus towards Washington State and the team’s objective of getting an important road win.
“Since (Washington State) are going all out for this game, we got to go all out too. We’ve played really poorly on the road, so we need to make a big turnaround and come ready to play.”