NCAA Football News
Names such as Shaq Thompson, Myles Jack and Jabrill Peppers have recently commanded attention because of their versatility.
But those unique talents are simply leading names in an era not focused on two-way college football players.
For decades, the sport was riddled with guys who starred on both sides of the ball. Many of the best suited up before 1960, claiming national awards and All-American honors.
And these aren't just receivers or cornerbacks who also returned kicks. Rather, they're players who held significant roles on offense and defense—and excelled at both while in college.
SACHSE, Texas — Many who follow college football recruiting in the Dallas area are well-aware of the strength of the Mayden family genes.
It's something 2018 quarterback Jalen Mayden has gotten used to hearing when he speaks to media members. He's the youngest of three brothers who have made their marks on the football field. Oldest brother James Mayden Jr. has established himself as an electrifying option at wide receiver for Rice. And then there's Jared Mayden, a 4-star cornerback who signed with Alabama in February.
All eyes are now on Jalen, a 6'2", 205-pound quarterback for Sachse High School with seven offers. What may be the telling story is that three of those offers—Bryant University, Houston and Oregon State—all came before he ever started a varsity game.
"I'm just thankful there's someone out there who wants to have me as the face of their program," Mayden said. "I've still got a lot of work to do, though."
As a sophomore, Mayden threw for 2,496 yards and 32 touchdowns and completed 65 percent of his passes (178 of 271). He also rushed for 513 yards and four touchdowns. On Sept. 17, Mayden produced his breakout game, throwing for 540 yards and six touchdowns and completing 28 of 33 attempts in a win for Sachse.
"His accuracy, man," Jared said of his brother. "He really doesn't throw balls that make you think it was a dumb pass. He really improved on his decision-making later on as the season went on."
Oklahoma fans will know his last name because of the quarterback's father. James Mayden Sr., at 6'10", was a center for the Sooners basketball team for two years. The brothers' mother is Katrina Salles, who also went to Oklahoma and is an established name in and around Texas as a recruiting aficionado.
All three Mayden sons are athletic, but while dad found his niche on the basketball court, the brothers decided that football was their best avenue for success. From the looks of things, all three made the right decision.
And at different positions, no less.
"I started off playing receiver, but I'd always throw the ball," Jalen said. "I really started liking it, so I'd always ask my brothers to do routes and help with my distance and my accuracy."
"He's had a very blessed walk," Salles said of Jalen. "They say the first one always has it the roughest. He watched James go through the process, then watched Jared do it. Now it's his turn, but he knows what needs to be done on the field and academically. He has the right mindset and is always somewhere working."
Mayden's offer list includes Ohio State, Louisville, Mississippi State and Syracuse, along with his first three offers. In-state programs like Baylor, Texas, TCU and Texas A&M are keeping a close eye on him as the spring progresses, according to his mother.
For Jared, watching his younger brother mature into a quarterback recruit has been a treat. He's one of his biggest critics but also one of his biggest fans. In practices last season, neither one was soft on the other, as they both knew that coddling on the field would only hurt their growth as players.
"He has goals," Jared said of Jalen. "When he first started playing, he would say he didn't think it was going to work. He didn't know if this would be for him. Now he looks like a quarterback. I just sit back and watch him."
Family battles seemed to work out just right. They'd have a quarterback (Jalen) throwing to a receiver (James Jr.) with a cornerback (Jared) looking to lock the receiver up. It made for great entertainment. It also built the competitive edge and established an alpha-dog mentality for all three brothers.
"In our household, no one screams, but we mean what we say, and we say what we mean," Salles said. "With Jalen, he's also going to show you what he means when he's doing it. It's kind of how he cultivated his leadership role. He's not afraid to tell his receivers to fix stance or call out a play he thinks the DBs are running."
Mayden's leadership skills will attract college coaches. He is big on team chemistry and maintaining chemistry on and off the field.
"At school, everybody is so focused with taking care of this level to be ready for the next level," Salles said. "They've all bought into the program. At Sachse, you have to walk right, talk right, live right and be prepared. Jalen's really bought into that, and he's a leader."
When he's not directing the offense in practice, Mayden's watching film or in a room with teammates studying position play. Team bonding is important to Jalen, on both sides of the ball. In fact, two athletes who traveled to Houston with Mayden and his mother to compete at last week's The Opening regional line up against him in practice—2017 linebacker Riko Jeffers and 2018 defensive end Zach Gilson.
As he continues to improve throughout the spring, Mayden is hoping he's doing enough to attract additional offers. He said he's going to take his time with the recruiting process and has good mentors in his brothers if he has any questions.
When that time comes to make a decision, Mayden said the winning school will answer pertinent questions that will aid his personal growth.
"Who's going to have the best fit for me? Who's going to make me better throughout my four years as a football player and as a young man?" he said. "I'm looking to make good decisions and learn how to do things outside of football. I just want to be developed, all in all."
Salles is excited about the future of her youngest son. She's anticipating Jalen to one day be the face of a program and go on to do big things like his brothers.
"Hopefully, colleges will see his walk of life and know that they can look at him as trustworthy," she said. "I want them to look at Jalen and say, 'This is our guy.'"
Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
By now, you've read all of the "way-too-early" predictions for the 2016 SEC race.
You've heard all about Alabama earning the benefit of the doubt, LSU's impending return to SEC glory and Tennessee finally getting over the hump and making its first SEC Championship Game since 2007.
The unpredictable, though, is what makes this sport great.
Sometimes 18-to-22-year-old young men have bad days, coaches make mistakes and upsets happen. In this slideshow we predict the eight biggest upsets in SEC football based on talent, scheme, matchup and schedule placement.