Texas safety Brandon Jones mentioned Reagor’s speed and recalled running track against him in high school.
“We raced in the 4x100m or the 4x200m,” Jones said, “so it wasn’t a 1-on-1 race.”
Jones laughed and added: “Thankfully.”
Baylor coach Matt Rhule hasn’t forgotten about Reagor taking over the TCU-Baylor game last season. Reagor scored two touchdowns, including a remarkable 65-yard catch-and-run on a jailbreak screen in which he made at least four Baylor defenders miss.
“We should’ve tackled him,” Rhule said, smiling. “I don’t mean that disrespectful. I mean we should’ve tackled him. At the end of the day, four or five guys he made miss. He made a play. That’s a credit to him. Great players make plays when they need to.
“He’s definitely a great player … and a future pro.”
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell had similar praise for Reagor.
“When you can run and you can jump and you can catch probably better than anybody on your team, that’s tough,” Campbell said. “He has elite athleticism. A guy that can make so many plays in space, but he also has the unique ability to go win the 50-50 ball. He certainly presents a great challenge.”
There’s no question Reagor is a household name among the Big 12 fan base, and has the potential to become one of college football’s biggest stars this season.
He didn’t have the most memorable start to his junior season in the opener at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, finishing with 71 yards receiving on five catches with a TD. But that is viewed as a warmup game with the season really getting underway at Purdue on Saturday.
All eyes will be on Reagor and Purdue’s standout receiver Rondale Moore. This is a stage and a game in which each receiver can flash their abilities.
“J Reagor, man, I don’t see anyone that can stop him really, except for TCU,” said Innis Gaines, the Frogs’ senior strong safety. “Other than that, I see nobody in the country stopping my boy who has true speed, true talent.
“I’m ready to see him ball out.”
Reagor comes from a football family.
Jalen has known from birth what it takes to succeed at the highest level. Montae has preached and instilled the work ethic and mindset that is necessary, and it’s shown so far.
Asked about his father’s influence, Jalen said: “It’s made it straight line, tunnel vision for me because I know what it takes. He’s done exactly what I want to do. Just him being able to tell me, what things to say, what things not to say, how to handle success. It’s helped me a lot.”
Jalen was a four-star recruit coming out of Waxahachie High School, receiving offers from a number of storied programs such as Alabama, Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Texas before choosing TCU.
He has since found success at the college level, posting a 1,000-yard receiving season despite TCU using four different quarterbacks last year.
This year, Jalen finds himself on a number of watch lists including the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Player of the Year, Biletnikoff Award, Paul Hornung Award and Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award.
TCU is determined to find ways to get Jalen the ball as much as possible.
Before the season, co-offensive coordinator and play-caller Sonny Cumbie said: “No doubt. You have as many as you can get without confusing everybody else.”
That is the approach Montae would take too.
“I believe there should be a certain number of plays that has ‘No. 1’ beside them,” Montae said. “I think every offensive coordinator, every head coach, every person that calls plays has specific plays for a dynamic player. You know you can count on that guy when his number is called.”
Jalen proved to be that guy last season when TCU had to win its final two games to become bowl eligible.
Reagor had the stellar game in TCU’s 16-9 victory at Baylor, scoring on the aforementioned 65-yard jailbreak screen and again on a 37-yard run. He made a similar impact in TCU’s 31-24 victory over Oklahoma State in the regular-season finale.
He rushed for 121 yards on five carries, including an 83-yard TD run, and also had 91 yards receiving with a score. It marked the first time a wide receiver in TCU and Big 12 history topped 100 yards rushing and 90 yards receiving.
But Jalen isn’t content with just letting his sophomore season speak for itself. He has bigger aspirations in 2019, notably saying he’d like to win the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver.
“It’s easy for me to relax now. I can relax now, but why?” Jalen said. “There’s so much more I can improve on, that I can get way better on.”
‘He’s a blessed kid’
Jalen didn’t get off to the fastest start in the opener, as stated. He accounted for just one of the 10 “explosive” plays by TCU on the day (an explosive play is a 16-plus yard reception or a 12-plus yard rush).
But Reagor is poised for a big-time season. He bulked up this offseason, adding 12 pounds to go from 183 pounds to 195 pounds.
“He’s gotten bigger, stronger, faster,” Montae said. “He’s a more complete receiver. More explosive. His focus and preparation has allowed him to grow. He’s changed his total body, changed his approach and mindset. I see a different focus in him this year.”
For now, his sole focus is on TCU and helping it rebound from a disappointing 7-6 season in 2018. Jalen sees potential for a high-scoring offense with himself and other playmakers such as Taye Barber, Te’Vailance Hunt, TreVontae Hights and Mikel Barkley.
Not to mention a running back tandem that features Sewo Olonilua and Darius Anderson.
Asked about the passing game opening up more this season, Jalen said: “Absolutely. I mean, why not? We have all these weapons. People will be showing attention to me, but they don’t know that we have so many pieces.
“So you can’t pay attention to me too long.”
Signs point toward Jalen having another stellar season despite the slower than desired start. Once TCU settles on a quarterback, whether it’s fifth-year senior Alex Delton or true freshman Max Duggan, the offense should find its groove.
And Jalen will have a significant role once again.
“I still truly believe in my heart that JR is top notch, one of the best in the conference, best in the nation,” Montae said. “At the end of the year, when it all matters, everything will speak for itself.
“His ceiling is still high. I don’t think he’s reached his peak. He’s a blessed kid.”
So blessed that most NFL Draft analysts see Jalen as a first-round talent following this season. That’s an inevitable decision he and his family will face at the end of the season.
But, if that projection and grade holds true, it’d be hard to envision him returning for a senior season.
“Reagor is just a fun player,” said Dane Brugler, NFL Draft analyst for The Athletic. “Smallish, but explosive with multiple gears. He understands route leverage and is a playmaker after the catch.
“It is shaping up to be a stacked WR class in the 2020 NFL Draft, but Reagor has the athletic and technical skill to be right there in the first round mix.”