FAYETTEVILLE — Redshirt sophomore safety Jalen Catalon was named to the AP second-team All-America list on Monday.
It’s just the latest honor for this highly decorated safety who is one of the leaders of Arkansas’ defense.
“It’s a blessing,” Catalon said. “I’m just blessed to be on the team, and I credit that to my teammates and coaches. I’m just looking forward to the season and getting it going. I really don’t put too much eye on it. I’ve got bigger goals, and that’s team goals more. I’m just putting that forward. I’m liking what I’m seeing so far from the team. Honestly, it’s a blessing and I’m glad they picked me to be on it, but I’m not really going to pay too much mind to it. Just going to keep my eyes focused on the goal, and that’s winning games and doing anything I can to make the team better.”
In addition to getting yet another honor on Monday, Catalon and his teammates also started classes again. How was the focus at football after the first day of classes?
“It looked good,” Catalon said. “We were focused for the most part, and I think we came with the right mindset. I think everybody was still trying to get back from the scrimmage we had Saturday and trying to get their bodies back, so our schedule looked like that. We kept it a little light but at the same time we were in full attack mode. Coach always emphasizes that every team goes through it, has the first day of class along with football class, so how are we going to separate ourselves. I thought we came out and made good strides towards the upcoming first game. At the same time, we competed against each other. We just have to keep going and understand it’s going to be a grind, but if you put your best foot forward and have the right mindset you can defeat anything and attack anything. So, that’s what we’re going to do.”
The group of safeties could be one the Arkansas’ strengths this fall. Among the ones who have reportedly turned heads this preseason in addition to Catalon are Myles Slusher, Simeon Blair, Joe Foucha and Jayden Johnson.
“The group as a whole, we’re just grinders.” Catalon said. “Every day we just try to do everything we can to be the very best we can be. It’s almost a competition between all of us. We always try to out-do each other. And when you have that mindset and that competition towards each other, you’re gonna get the best out of everybody.
“Like Joe. Joe’s stepped up this fall camp and he’s had a great camp. Sim’s been consistent with his leadership and just his studies and everything. Then Slusher’s stepping up too. He just looks like he’s a vet, like he’s been here doing it his whole life and he’s been here for a while. So I just think all of us together could be something special. I think the whole DB room could be something special, as well as the young guys who are stepping up and making plays. It should be something special to watch us.”
Catalon was held out of Saturday’s scrimmage, but he explained why on Monday.
“Yeah I’m feeling good,” Catalon said. “They just kind of want to hold me out right now with my shoulder. If we had a game tomorrow I would be good to go. They just want to make sure they keep it right and keep it healthy. Just have me ready for September 4. But as far as the reps I’m good to go. They just want to keep the contact off of me.”
While he is among the best safeties in the nation following a redshirt freshman season that saw him play in all 10 games. He finished with 99 tackles, including 51 solo, two for loss, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, one recovered and seven pass breakups. Despite a season like that Catalon knows he can get even better.
“I think just the negatives where everybody makes me the reason why I’m not a first team.” Catalon said. “Reason why I’m not on top of a lot of list. I try to work on just being more consistent and just kind of taking my game to the next level. As far as maybe me being even better tackler than I was or being even better in coverage. I’m not satisfied with anything. Whatever I can do to help myself become a better player that’s what I’m going to do. So I will always have to look at the negatives of certain people or what my coach thinks I can work on. I try to perfect that. At the same time I work on my craft and try to make sure I do what I’m good at to make sure I stay on top of that. But at the same I try to work on my negatives and just do everything I can to help our defense be on top where we need to be. That’s where I try to be.”
Catalon and the Hogs will return to the practice fields this afternoon. Arkansas and Rice will open the season Sept. 4 in Reynolds Razorback Stadium at 1 p.m.