When I came up with my list of 2015 NFL Draft Prospects for our Prospect of the Day series for the Texans, I wanted to spread the wealth to a varied number of players at different positions. But, one that I targeted early in the process was former Arizona State star Jaelen Strong.
The problem was that I was pretty sure that he wasn't going to end up here.
I didn't think that Strong would make it out of the first round at that point and definitely not be on the board at No. 51.
Well, as they say "stuff happens" and the NFL Draft is epitomizes "stuff happen"-ing.
Regardless, I wanted to tell his story because it's one that I wanted Texans fans to know.
West Philadelphia, PA born and raised.
41 receptions in two years in high school. Shoot, some current high school receivers catch 41 passes in half a season. Navasota (TX) HS WR Tran'Davian Dickson caught 39 TOUCHDOWN passes in a single year in 2014. Strong had 41 catches in his career.
He had ONE scholarship offer from an FBS (Division I) school - Eastern Michigan.
But, he knew that he could play at a higher level, so he went the two-year college route (only for a year) and selected Pierce College in Los Angeles to see if his play there could open a few more doors. That's where the worm turned, in some sense. He caught 67 passes and had 15 TDs in his one season there. It was a calculated gamble and it paid off.
Scholarship from Arizona State.
All-Pac-12 in 2013.
All-American in 2014.
Yet, looked past for much of the first two nights of the NFL Draft. Hopefully, it'll be like deja vu all over again.
Something to prove. Teams didn't believe. Time to ball.
Strong's interminable wait was the Texans gain and when we saw his name pop up as the 70th pick with Houston Texans next to his name, it elicited fist pumps and cheers from the NRG Stadium press box where we broadcasted the Texans draft show on Friday night.
Every ball is his. Quite simply put, like DeAndre Hopkins, he wants the rock and he's going to get it.
Here's a great example of just that v. USC. Most people that follow college football know how this game ends. Strong caught a Hail Mary on the last play of the game to beat the vaunted Trojans in their own building. However, earlier in the game, Strong made a tremendous catch on a third down play that gave Arizona State a key first down on a scoring drive. That catch proves my point completely.
On third and four late in the third quarter, Strong was aligned as the number one receiver into the boundary. USC star freshman Adoree Jackson was in press coverage.
The end zone view gave a better view of this one-on-one battle.
Immediately, Jackson attempted to get his hands on Strong to prevent a clean release.
But, as Strong got a yard beyond the first down marker, he positioned himself in such a way that he forced Jackson to go through him to get to the football. However, Jackson was latched on pretty hard and wasn't about to let Strong catch the rock.
Here's a key at this point, the ball was in the air and Strong was still engaged with Jackson. But, at the last moment, Strong overpowered Jackson, shrugged him off and…
...first down. Strong snatched the throw, fought through Jackson's tackle attempt and picked up seven key yards for a Sun Devil first down.
Every ball is his.
After catching only 41 in his high school career, can you blame him?
Take a look at Jaelen Strong's football career at Arizona State.