What a difference a year makes for new Sun Devil Jaelen Strong

What a difference a year has made for new Sun Devil wide receiver Jaelen Strong.

Coming out of high school in Philadelphia, PA, he received scholarship offers to play football at Eastern Michigan and Villanova. However, he ultimately decided that going the Junior college route might be the best decision for him off the bat.

Strong was going to head to Dean College in Boston, MA out of high school originally but got advice from a friend also from Phily about Pierce College in Woodland Hills, CA.

“People may be familiar with Gerald Bowman who is over at USC right now but was getting highly recruited from Arizona State,” Strong explained. “He was at Pierce at the time and knew I was looking for a junior college so he called me and said you might want to check this out.”

So Strong decided to call the head coach, make the trip across the country, put in the work to be able to play right away and because of it, Strong’s potential as a receiver at the collegiate level became more than apparent and ultimately life changing.

“It was life changing all around,” Strong said. “Being on the field after taking one year off and just learning the game speed even at the junior college level is different than high school.”

“Then there is also going 3,000 miles away from home,” he added. “Living on your own, providing for yourself and doing everything you can. It was pretty tough at the JUCO level. Doing all those things and staying grounded, staying humble, and continuing to work because you know days will get better from the struggle.”

15 touchdowns and over 1,2000 yards receiving at Pierce last season had him on the radar of some of the best football programs in the country including Miami, Nebraska and Tennessee. But on Christmas Day 2012, Strong and not Santa Claus gave the Sun Devil program an exciting gift by committing to them. It was somewhat of a leap of faith for Strong because never in his life had he been to Arizona.

Coach (Mike) Norvell said he wanted me before my season started at Pierce and said he would be in contact with me and that more than likely they would have an offer for me,” Strong explained. “They stayed true to their word since day one. Coach (Chip) Long did a great job recruiting me, Coach Todd Graham and Coach Norvell went all the way to Philadelphia to talk to my mother.”

“They promised me that I would be the best man I can be leaving this program,” he added. “Not just a football player but the best man because that is more important leaving this university.”

Strong ultimately decided that ASU was the right place for him based on the people and not necessarily the destination. And now that he has arrived at this destination, he plans to make the most of it.

“I’ll do whatever I can to help Arizona State win football games,” Strong stated. “With the deep ball, going across the middle on third and longs to find the sticks and get that first round, being a big target for Taylor Kelly. I am real excited about that.”

All of this buildup over the last year leads Strong to now have the opportunity to do be involved in some exciting things in 2013. For example, playing in the Cowboys Stadium in Dallas against a storied program like Notre Dame. It’s opportunity Strong might not have thought imaginable when thinking where he was mentally a year ago at this point.

“It’s a blessing honestly,” he said. “I didn’t think I would be out of JUCO a year ago but I got it done.”