New Kid On The Block Jalen Weitzel Hopes to Make an Impact

The freshman wide receiver from Columbus, Ohio is ready to work for his spot

Weitzel+makes+a+diving+one+handed+catch+against+Dublin+Jerome+highschool%2C+while+playing+for+Olentangy+Berlin+High+School.+Oct+25%2C+2019++Photo+courtesy+of+Jalen+Weitzel

Weitzel makes a diving one handed catch against Dublin Jerome highschool, while playing for Olentangy Berlin High School. Oct 25, 2019 Photo courtesy of Jalen Weitzel

On a five hour flight from Ohio to California Jalen Weitzel had a thousand different thoughts running through his mind. He had just completed high school and was excited to start football practice at his new school: Mt. SAC. Once he landed in the golden state he was eager to start training with his new team. That’s when he found out that the California Community College Athletic Association had postponed the football season. The news was devastating for Weitzel because it meant his lifelong goal of playing college football would have to wait.
Weitzel, a business marketing major, just turned 18 in August, and has been playing tackle football since the third grade. Weitzel plays wide-receiver and will likely be lining up in the slot position when Mt. SAC’s football season starts.
Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, Weitzel said that, “there’s not really a whole lot to do besides football and sports.” Weitzel used to play soccer as a kid and credits his step-dad for switching him from soccer to football when he was young.
“My parents realized how physical I always was,” Weitzel said. “I always wanted to make a big hit, I was always slide tackling.”
Weitzel had to deal with an unorthodox high school experience. He attended Olentangy High School, where he played football, but switched schools his junior year because he had been on a list to get transferred to the newly built school.
At Olentangy Berlin High School, Weitzel was part of the first graduating class and the school had no true seniors when he first arrived.
“The weirdest part for me was the fact that there was no senior class. It was just freshman, sophomores, and us juniors,” he said. “It was different, you had a senior year for two years.”
Unlike his school, the schools that he would compete against did have a traditional senior class. “The teams we were playing against had a foundation that was already built years and years ago,” Weitzel said. “So we were like the new kids on the block.”
Weitzel also participated in track and field during highschool, but playing for the Olentangy Berlin football program is what provided Weitzel with the challenge of becoming a leader on a new team of young players.
“It was pretty rough not having a senior class. We had such a humongous role to fill because we were all just sophomores and now we had to to transition to being leaders among men,” Weitzel said. “It was definitely rough the first year, we were just trying to get the hang of everything, everything was new, coaches were new, the playbook was new.”
“But I definitely wouldn’t change my experience,” he added.
COVID-19 has postponed many collegiate sports, and like other JUCO football players across the country. Weitzel is not used to the fact that he’s not playing football at this time of year. “It’s really weird, for about 10 or 11 years of my life around this time [of year], I have been playing in some type of football game,” Weitzel said. “It’s different, I’m trying to stay focused, stay grinding and get back out there ASAP.”
With the pandemic and current events dominating the minds of most Americans, young student athletes like Weitzel are not afforded the luxury of becoming distracted with the current state of the nation. “It sucks what’s going on in the world but I can’t do anything to change that,” he said. “The only thing I can do is better myself and stay locked in.”
Weitzel said even though the climate has changed and the things around him have changed, he is remaining focused on his craft and accomplishing his goal; playing for a Division I college. “The people around me, including myself, have always believed my talent is capable of being on someone’s Division I program,” he added.
While at Olentangy Berlin, Weitzel had to overcome adversity when he suffered a serious injury to his collarbone which threatened his scholarship chances. Weitzel said he had a few offers going into his senior year. “Your senior year is supposed to be your breakout year, with all your hard work and everything you put together, it’s just that year,” he said. “Unfortunately, right before the season I had broken my collarbone and I was out pretty much the whole season.”
Weitzel said it was a major setback for him, considering all the hard work he had put into watching film and working out during the offseason. “For all that to be over in one blink of an eye was heartbreaking,” he said. “It was staying close to God and my family, that helped me to continue to get through it.”
Quitting football, however, was never an option for Weitzel. “It was never a thought in my mind,” he said. “What was going through my mind was, what’s going to happen next?”
Weitzel said he stayed focused on his rehabilitation and was able to make it back in time to participate in a few games towards the end of the season. “I didn’t want to end my senior year without getting a couple of ticks,” he added.
By watching his highlight reel one could see that his footwork and route running ability is one of his strengths on the field. “I’m not one of those super fast guys, so when you don’t have that 4.3 speed you have to have different parts of your game to separate you amongst the best,” Weitzel said. “That’s something I take pride in, hard work, work ethic, footwork, and running crispy routes, that’s what really takes my game to the next level.”
Weitzel approaches the game with a business-like attitude. He said he really started to develop this mindset two years ago when he stopped hanging around certain people that were outside his football life. “They say sophomore to your junior year is one of the biggest transitions in becoming a man,” Weitzel said. “One of the biggest things that helped me was changing my friends, the people I was hanging around with,” he added.
“I needed to hang around people that had the same goal as me,” Weitzel saidl.
The decision to go to Mt. SAC was a calculated one. Weitzel said he looked up every JUCO in the country to figure out which school would be the best fit for him. “When I came across Mt. SAC it just looked like a great place to get better,” he said.
After he visited the campus he realized it was where he wanted to start his career. Weitzel said the coaches he spoke with were tremendous, and that’s what really sold it for him. Former players he spoke with also said good things about the school. “I think it was really the research for me that made me feel really good about my decision,” said Weitzel.
Weitzel’s father attended Cuesta college in San Luis Obispo, which he said influenced his decision to attend school in California. “I did want to be far away from home. I’ve lived in the same place my whole life so I wanted to travel,” said Weitzel. “I wanted to get out of Ohio.”
“I’m thankful for the opportunity I’ve been given, not a lot of people get this opportunity,” he added.
Weitzel enjoys watching professional sports and his favorite NFL team is the Baltimore Ravens. His favorite NFL player is retired wide-receiver Lance Moore. Moore is his favorite receiver because his step-dad’s brother was friends with him and because of Moore’s attention to detail when it came to route running. Weitzel also said he and his family used to have Cleveland Cavaliers season tickets when LeBron James played for them.
On game days Weitzel said he likes to listen to Shottababy, Moneybagg Yo, or Da Baby; because their vibes make him want to punch something. Look for him to make some noise once the football season begins in January.

Weitzel lines up for a snap at practice
Photo courtesy of Jalen Weitzel