Jalen Green grew up wanting to be the next Vince Young. As a ninth-grader, he led his Houston Heights freshman team to a 9-1 record, scoring more than 80 points in four games. Green’s squad would’ve gone 10-0 except for a loss against Houston Lamar, home of fellow Fabulous 55 members Anthony Cook, D’Shawn Jamison and Al’Vonte Woodard.
Years later, Green is one of the state’s top prospects — as a cornerback, not a quarterback.
“He could easily be a four- or five-star quarterback,” Heights coach Stephen Dixon said. “When he first came to high school, all he wanted to be was Vince Young. He was a great quarterback. That’s where we had him slated to play. We all, Jalen included, slated him to be our quarterback starting his sophomore season.”
Life rarely goes as planned, though. Randle Johnson, a quarterback who had left the Bulldogs’ program, returned to Heights for his senior season — just as Green was entering his sophomore year. Heights went with Johnson since he had experience.
The coaches knew Green was too talented to sit on the sidelines, though. So Dixon approached Green with an idea.
“We told Jalen he could move back to quarterback his junior season, but we needed him on the field,” Dixon said. “He did not like that at first. He didn’t want to play cornerback. He had a decent first game as a sophomore. By his third game, he locked down Richmond Foster’s CeeDee Lamb, who was a big-time talent. That’s when we knew we had something special.”
Fast-forward 18 months and Green is ranked No. 9 on the Fabulous 55, a consensus four-star cornerback with offers from nearly every major program in the country. He’ll get his pick of schools. The 6-1, 171-pound prospect is the second-highest rated cornerback in the state, behind Lamar’s Cook, whom he played against as a freshman quarterback.
“I describe Jalen as a complete savage,” Dixon said. “He’s up for any challenge and doesn’t take snaps off, even at a camp. He’s that type of competitor. Part of him feels like he still doesn’t get the recognition he deserves and he uses that as motivation. The disrespect becomes his fuel.”
Some of that perceived disrespect is spawned from recruiting. After a stellar sophomore year, Dixon expected Green to garner national offers. Yet, after receiving an offer from Tulsa on Jan. 28, 2016, Green didn’t receive another offer until that April when Baylor offered. As fate would have it, Houston’s Tom Herman also offered that day.
Dixon, himself a former UH player, took his Heights team to watch the Cougars practice; Herman was the head coach, and Dixon had grown to know and respect him. Herman and Dixon started playing dominoes together after Herman reached out to Dixon and other UH alumni to help run a football camp. Dixon said that invitation left “a profound impact” on him. (Herman is now doing something similar at Texas by inviting former Longhorns back into the fold.)
“I took the whole team to Houston’s practice and Jalen went missing. I found out it was because he was getting offered by Herman and his staff. He blew up after that,” Dixon said. “No disrespect to Cook because he’s a great player, but all the college coaches say Jalen is the best cornerback in the nation and has room for development since he only started playing the position as a sophomore.”
The plan was for Green to move back to quarterback his junior year. Once again, plans changed. This time because of Green. He saw the recruiting attention headed his way as a cornerback and decided it was the best position for his future. He was right.
“Once he got those offers, he was a defensive back,” Dixon said. “He’s in love with being a defensive back. I think his time spent at quarterback, and even playing some wide receiver for us, helps him as a cornerback. He’s a smart kid and down to earth. He uses that past experiences to help him at cornerback. He’s one of, if not the best, player I’ve coached in 20-plus year in the business.”
Green visited Texas over the weekend and watched the Orange-White Game with dozens of other top prospects, even posing for a photo in Herman’s office with fellow high-profile recruits, including Woodard and Jamison, a duo Green has known as competitors since his freshman year. Texas is in good position with Green and the Lamar trio.
“Jalen is looking for comfortability, and by that, I mean belief in the system. He wants to believe in what the coaches are preaching and that they’ll bring in players like him to compete for a national title,” Dixon said. “He also wants it to be a good school regardless of football. All of those things, plus proximity to family will come into play.”