JENKS — Jenks safety Jalyn Stanford had an additional reason to celebrate Tuesday in addition to his imminent signing with the University of Houston.
It also was Stanford’s graduation day as he attended his last high school class.
Although the NCAA’s first signing period for football doesn’t officially start until Wednesday, Jenks celebrated early the signings of Stanford and offensive lineman Landon Zaldivar to Memphis during a ceremony Tuesday at Sharp Center so that other students could attend before holiday break starts.
Stanford has been committed to Houston since July 4. He also excelled as a running back, but the Cougars are projecting him for their defense.
“I love the coaching staff, I love the players,” Stanford said. “It kind of felt like my home outside of home and they made my family feel comfortable as well, and I went ahead and chose where my heart went.”
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Stanford, who helped Jenks win a pair of Class 6AI state titles, received offers from Missouri and Nebraska after committing to Houston.
“They tried to get me to flip,” Stanford said. “(But) I told them (Houston) when I put my name on that paper when I verbally committed, there was no going back, I was 100% committed.”
Jenks coach Keith Riggs remembers seeing Stanford as an eighth-grader.
“One thing that really stood out to me was that even in eighth grade he was a big hitter, he loved to play defense, loved to run and tackle people,” Riggs said. “As a former defensive coach, that was very exciting for me, that was awesome to watch him come up in eighth and ninth grade and play a significant role as a sophomore.
“Sophomores we feel have an opportunity to get on the field we typically specialize them to take some things off their plate to make it easier to adjust to high school football and learn what we do. But we kind of did the opposite with Jalyn. As a sophomore, Jalyn played safety, running back and receiver, so not only did we not specialize him, but we gave him an extra position to deal with, and he handled it all.”
Zaldivar spent his freshman year at Jenks, moved for a year to Webb City (Missouri) and then returned to the Trojans before his junior season and helped them win a state title. Injuries limited his playing time as a senior.
Riggs recalled Zaldivar making a big impression during a practice while Memphis offensive line coach Jim Bridge was watching.
“He couldn’t stop talking about Landon and how he moved,” Riggs said.
Zaldivar later heard about Bridge’s praise.
“It was reassuring, made me feel good, it got me in,” Zaldivar said. “I’m just pumped up. I’m ready to play. I’m ready to get up there with the big boys.”
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