Being named the Gatorade Football Player of the Year in any state is quite an accomplishment, but Jalen Brown (Phoenix/Mountain Pointe) pulled off an even rarer feat this year as he won the award following his junior season. In a loaded class of Arizona seniors and juniors, Brown was named the top player in the state for an award that, according to the news release, "recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field."
True to form, Brown couldn't help but focus on the second and third criteria.
"Those are definitely the more important traits," Brown said of academics and character. "In the end, football isn't everything and it's going to end at some point. I want to take a path where I don't regret anything I've done. It's important to me to be a well-liked person all-around in the community."
Brown, who carries a 3.42 GPA, finished the season with 68 receptions for 1,235 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also starred on defense with 25 tackles and five interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound receiver already holds nearly 20 scholarship offers from programs such as Arkansas, Boise State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Oregon State, UCLA, Vanderbilt and Washington.
"It's been a little bit hectic lately," Brown said. "But it's been a good recruiting process for me. I'm staying real open and taking all my options in to see what road I can take."
Brown hopes to take several unofficial visits this spring in order to begin the real work of narrowing down his options. He has a long list of schools he'd like to visit, but he said the most interesting thing to him is getting a sense for what each conference offers. Already familiar with the Pac-12, Brown said he would like to visit the SEC, with possible trips to Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. He is also interested in the Big Ten, with Michigan and Michigan State, as well as Notre Dame.
With so many top recruits committing earlier and earlier in the process, Brown said his plan is to push that off for as long as possible.
"For me, the earliest it would be is midseason next year," he said. "But I will probably push it later. I want to wait as long as I can to make a commitment because I want to see all my options."
A two-way standout, Brown said most coaches have talked to him about playing wide receiver at the next level, although some have left open the possibility of him playing on either side of the ball. Though no recent offers have come through, he said Michigan State, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt coaches have expressed interest.
"They told me they are liking me a lot," Brown said. "They want me to get my junior highlight tape up and posted so they can look at it as a staff."