The need for water-cooler talk has always existed in sports. Debating the merits of one athlete over another or comparing one generation’s players and teams to another generation has been going on for as long as athletics has been around.
In the case of Northeast football star Jalen Reeves-Maybin, let the talk begin.
“I’d put him up there with any of Clarksville’s greats,” Northeast High football coach Issac Shelby. “People can say I’m biased, but look at what he’s accomplished.”
There’s no doubt Reeves-Maybin has been the leader on an Eagles team that has enjoyed its most sustained success on the football field than at any four-year period in the program’s history. His numbers this season proved that he belonged among the top high school football players in the state. And he has the college recruiting clout to prove it. More than a dozen major college programs (18 to be exact) offered the Eagles senior a scholarship. Reeves-Maybin chose to commit to Tennessee.
And not many high school backs could claim a 1,000-yard rushing season in just three playoff games. Reeves-Maybin is one of them.
And for the second straight year, he has claimed his second Leaf-Chronicle All Area Football Player of the Year honor. The award is voted on by the newspaper sports staff while the All Area football team is selected by the area athletics directors.
“I feel like I’ve earned to be mentioned,” Reeves-Maybin said about his name being attached to some of the city’s greats. “I put in a lot of work in the past four years and we’ve had a lot of success. But to be honest, I never really think about those things. I just go out, play hard and hope the results speak for itself.”
In his career, Reeves-Maybin has more than 5,000 rushing yards and more than 100 combined touchdowns. He holds several school records and without argument is considered the best high school football player from Northeast since Travis Stephens in 1996.
“I really learned a lot from those older guys when I was a freshman,” Reeves-Maybin said. “Guys like Jerel Allen and Reco Williams, they taught me a lot.”
Shelby knew he had a diamond in the rough when Reeves-Maybin was a freshman. The Northeast star took over the starting quarterback job from Allen, who played the position well the previous season. But it became obvious to Shelby — who served as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2009 — that Allen’s experience would be more valuable and the coaches moved Reeves-Maybin to the slot.
“Even then, Jalen had an incredible amount of skill level,” Shelby said. “And since his freshman year the great thing about him is his work ethic. He is always trying to improve. He’s never missed a film session and never missed practice. Once, he was late for practice by about 15 minutes. The rest of the team was kind of freaking out wondering where he was. He was late because he had a death in the family.”
When Reeves-Maybin took over full-time at quarterback his sophomore year, he broke out. He ran for 1,013 yards as a sophomore while guiding the team to its first state quarterfinal appearance since ’96. Last season, he was named All State after putting up 1,468 rushing yards and 1,267 passing with a combined 46 touchdowns.
This season he was limited after tearing his labrum in a win against Henry County, Sept. 27. Yet he still managed to run for more than 2,000 yards, including 1,000 yards in just three playoff games before his team was knocked off by Beech, 44-43, in the state quarters last month.
“I really didn’t care about my shoulder,” Reeves-Maybin said. “As long as the doctor said I could play, I was going to. There wasn’t anyone that was going to tell me I couldn’t.”
Reeves-Maybin said he felt a sense of responsibility to his teammates.
“I didn’t want to let them down,” he said. “They were battling with me and I had to live up to my end of the bargain.”
With Reeves-Maybin’s numbers and success — he finished with a career 31-19 record, played in 10 playoff games and never failed to reach at least the second round of the playoffs — his legacy seems secure.
“You think about guys like coach (Ted) Young, Mr. (Harry) Galbreath, Stephens, (Shawn) Marion, (Tenton) Hassell and recently with Alex (Poythress) and even Jalen’s dad (Marques Maybin), I think he deserves to be in that conversation,” Shelby said.