Jalen Guyton Leads North Texas In Receiving, Cites His Father's Work-Ethic As Inspiration
DENTON – Redshirt sophomore Jalen Guyton has a strong work ethic. It was forged while he was young, seeing his father, Jeff Guyton, work multiple jobs to take care of his family. Guyton has used that as motivation to help him reach his ultimate dream, which is playing at the highest level.
“Ever since I was young, my dad has been the one to take me to practice, have my gear ready for me and give me encouragement to always turn it into a good day,” Guyton said. “It was always my dad to help push me along the way and he’s always been that way. He works really hard, which inspires me.”
Jeff came from the small town of Lockhart, near Austin, where Guyton said it’s tough to get out. Jeff went to college, earned his degree, moved to Dallas and put a ton of time and effort into providing for his family.
“At the end of my senior year, he had two jobs for about a year, working his corporate job in Dallas during the day and then worked through the night valeting cars,” Guyton said. “If we were ever struggling, I never knew it. The older you get and the more you grow up, it gives you more respect for that work-ethic and what he has done for our family.”
Guyton played high school football at Allen, a nationally-recognized program that routinely produces division one student-athletes, as well as several National Football League players. Guyton was a highly-regarded prospect who was a key part of a team that won 43 consecutive games and three state championships.
According to Guyton, Allen is responsible for giving him the right mentality to succeed on the football field.
“Winning is not just something that happens,” Guyton said. “There’s a lot that goes into it. Winning is something that happens deliberately. It’s attitude, mentality and how you carry yourself. When I was a freshman and sophomore at Allen, I was just kind of there. I didn’t have that mentality yet.
“As I got older, being with some of those guys there showed me and my teammates how it’s supposed to go and how it’s supposed to be done. A lot of those guys are playing now and some are about to head to the league. That’s where I started learning how to win and that there were no shortcuts.”
From Allen, Guyton decided to take his talents to South Bend, Indiana, and Notre Dame. Though he was only there for one semester, Guyton picked up a lot from his Fighting Irish teammates.
“I don’t think I could have asked for better role models than I had at Notre Dame,” Guyton said.
Guyton was immediately surrounded by NFL talent in Will Fuller (Houston Texans), Jaylon Smith (Dallas Cowboys), Isaac Rochell (Los Angeles Chargers) and KeiVarae Russell (Cincinnati Bengals). He took it upon himself to soak up what he saw from several of his teammates. He was able to see that, though admittedly, wasn’t at the point in his maturity to start applying what he saw day in and day out.
“I look back and remember that these were the kinds of things these guys were doing,” Guyton said. “Jaylon Smith got in the ice bath every day. Will Fuller caught hundreds of passes after practice every day. If you’ve ever been somewhere where people are light years ahead of you in something, it shows you the blueprint.”
Things ended up not working out for Guyton at Notre Dame, and after his semester in South Bend, he transferred to Trinity Valley Community College back in his home state of Texas.
Guyton speaks fondly of his time in Athens, Texas, citing the quality of coaching received, and how the whole experience humbled him. Life in the junior college ranks was in stark contrast to what resources Guyton had experienced at Allen and in South Bend, but that deconstructed things for him, allowing his focus to be only about football.
“I expected to go down to Trinity Valley and be the top dog and head honcho,” Guyton said. “There’s guys there that no one knows who they are, but they’re balling and that realization that I came in with the wrong attitude just made me put my nose down and grind. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been or where you came from, all that mattered then is that this is where you are and it’s going to take work.”
After putting up a strong 2016 season in Athens, Guyton’s options were open. He held several offers from a variety of schools, but ultimately saw North Texas as the best fit. A big part of that was his immediate connection with the coaching staff, specifically offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, associate head coach Tommy Mainord and outside receivers coach Joel Filani.
Guyton said the decision was easy. North Texas gave him the best chance to get to the next level, especially with so many relatable coaches on staff that had NFL experience. Immediately upon his arrival in Denton, he applied what he learned in previous stops to put in the work. That work paid dividends with Guyton being named to the team’s leadership council after the conclusion of summer workouts.
Nearly midway through the season, Guyton has found a lot of success in the Mean Green offense. He leads North Texas in receptions (24), receiving yards (444) and touchdowns (five) through five games, which is eighth in the country. He has become the deep threat that the Mean Green lacked last season. Guyton has three touchdown grabs of 29 yards or longer, and 10 catches of 15 or more yards.
Looking ahead to what the North Texas offense can do, and where the program is capable of going is something that is not lost on Guyton. But it’s the journey now that he and his teammates are a part of that excites him the most.
“I’m trying to win conference championships and do big things here with this family,” Guyton said. “You know when people say trust the process, it’s more than that. You’ve got to love that process. We get to see everything here blossom and come into place. It’s hard to understand maybe from the outside looking in how we can be so successful, but when you’re actually in here and you’re doing it, there’s no mystery, it’s work. It’s about trying to develop and get better every single day.”
But Guyton and the Mean Green won’t get there without that process or that work.
“It’s special. I think that this is what changing things feels like, we are doing it right now,” Guyton said. We are changing right now. Everybody in this building has something to do with it. Everything is #NewDenton. It’s a whole train and everybody is on that train. You can’t just bring in athletes into any program and think, now we are just going to start winning. No, we’ve made changes all across the board. We’ve done it with the coaching staff, with administrative staff, etc. I think it’s something special right now.”
Guyton and the Mean Green are looking to continue that upswing as they head into next week for a key Conference-USA West battle with UT-San Antonio.