by Rob Moseley
Jalen Brown was adept enough as a student to graduate high school in December, and advanced enough as a football player to earn a scholarship offer from Oregon.
Since arriving in Eugene last month, he's proving himself quite savvy in the area of relationship-building, too. Brown, a four-star wide receiver recruit from Phoenix, is in a weight-lifting group with none other than UO quarterback Marcus Mariota — a great role model for young players and not a bad guy for a young receiver to make nice with.
"We've got a pretty good bond," Brown said Tuesday morning. "He's a great person to work out with. We push each other."
On Wednesday, the UO football program will announce its latest recruiting class, a group that figures to address immediate needs and also long-term continuity. Three of the new additions are already enrolled, including transfer linebacker Johnny Ragin, JC cornerback Dominique Harrison and Brown, the lone high school player among the early enrollees so far.
Brown is a former Gatorade state player of the year in Arizona who accounted for a state-record 52 total touchdowns in four years, and a Mountain Pointe High record 14 interceptions. He caught 119 passes for 2,464 yards and 37 touchdowns over the last two years, and was rated the No. 2 receiver in the West Region by Scout.com, which called him the most "college ready" player on the list.
Since last month, Brown has been lifting weights, doing speed work and other conditioning drills, and playing seven-on-seven with his new teammates.
"None of it's too hard," the former high school honors student said. "There's just a lot of it."
Brown proved at an early age he can handle a heavy load. He took honors courses in middle school, and more in high school, which ultimately gave him the option of graduating early.
Last September, Brown decided that was the way to go, adding one extra online class to his course load in order to finish high school by December.
"He’s ready to go on with the next stage,” Brown's high school coach, Norris Vaughan, told the Arizona Republic newspaper. “He really is ready right now, academically, physically and emotionally. A lot of kids are not ready for that emotionally. He is ready.”
"Definitely on a social level it's a big difference, just leaving everybody, leaving family," Brown said. "I've lived in Arizona my whole life, so it's a change in atmosphere. But I thought it was pretty good for me to move on faster, get thrown into things and have more time to adjust."
Brown said tutors have "helped a lot" in easing his adjustment to the academic load. He's taking introductory business courses, with the intention of eventually becoming a financial advisor to professional athletes.
Graduate assistant coach Nate Costa, a former UO quarterback who works with receivers coach Matt Lubick, has helped Brown digest Oregon's schemes. Horace Raymond, the assistant athletic director for player development, has mentored Brown in his adjustment to college life outside of football.
"Athletically I feel like everybody else," Brown said. "Of course the older guys have a little bit more experience, but I'll be able to catch up if I keep working hard."
Brown was measured at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, and said he hopes to add another five to 10 pounds of muscle prior to the fall. Twice a week, he participates in one-on-one and seven-on-seven drills organized by the players.
"The first week, I was definitely just watching," Brown said. "Now that I've got the hang of things, I get most of the calls down. I'm not thinking too hard, and I'm just playing."
When spring drills begin in April, Brown will have a chance to show what he's learned. He enrolled early with the intention of challenging for playing time in 2014, at a position looking to replace departed senior starter Josh Huff.
Once the team puts pads on, Brown will also get the opportunity to prove himself as a blocker, fundamental to the UO offense.
"That's just an effort deal," Brown said. "If you want to block, you can block. You don't have to pancake somebody, or be the strongest dude and just throw somebody out of bounds. If you get in their way and maneuver them so we can keep running, you can do it."
Just another savvy answer from Oregon's newest freshman, who is about to be joined by the rest of his class come Wednesday.