Spend a night watching a Mansfield Legacy football game and there’s one phrase you’ll likely hear over and again.
“Tackle by Jalen Catalon.”
That was said 18 times this past Friday in Legacy’s 28-26 win over Timberview. Catalon, just a sophomore, now has 89 tackles on the season through just six games. If that wasn’t enough, he also had two interceptions and a forced fumble against the Wolves.
“He’s fearless to the football,” Legacy coach Chris Melson said. “He’s so determined to get to the football, and when he gets there his tackling ability is as good as I’ve seen in all my years of coaching. He speeds up on contact. He’s got a gift.”
Catalon has already set and broken his own team record for tackles in a game. Entering the season, the school mark was 19. Catalon has posted games of 22 and 24 tackles this season.
“I really thought the world of him as a freshman,” Melson said. “Then, in the spring when he was with the varsity players, he was just really doing some special things. What’s been good is that he’s growing and learning more. He’s seeing more things and it’s been a neat experience. He hasn’t done more than I expected, because I really think he’s a special player.”
If the Catalon name sounds familiar, look no further than the starting quarterback, Kendal Catalon. Jalen’s big brother has helped him make the leap directly from freshman to varsity football.
“It definitely helps when you have a brother who’s been doing this for three years, someone who was in this position starting as a sophomore as well,” Jalen said. “He kind of knows what it’s like, so he’s been helping me out this whole time. It’s been good having him and it’s also been nice playing with him.”
Some project that Jalen will take over the quarterback position next year after Kendall graduates. Melson hasn’t ruled it out.
“He’s going to play both sides,” he said. “I just think he’s good enough and I think he can do it.”
For the present, though, Catalon is focused on being the best defensive back he can be, which is how he’d prefer it.
“I like defense a lot more,” he admitted. “I think everyone has a different kind of attitude, and mine is being aggressive. Defense just gives me a lot of motivation. I like quarterback, as well, but I prefer defense. At the end of the day, whatever helps my team win is what I’ll do.”
Furthermore, Catalon no longer feels like a sophomore playing varsity.
“I felt a little nervous just because it’s a bigger atmosphere, the competition is a lot better and there’s a lot more at stake,” he explained. “But at the same time, it’s just another football game, so by the time you get into the game, those nerves just go away and you feel like you’ve been doing this a long time.”
It also helps that he teammates don’t treat him like a sophomore.
“We have this motto of F.A.M.I.L.Y: Forget About Me, I Love You. We have this bond. Sometimes you have to know your place, but as a sophomore, they still treat me like I’m a senior and like I’ve been doing this a long time, so I really appreciate my teammates. It’s just been a great experience so far.”