In his sophomore season, tight end Jalen Wydermyer has stepped up to help out a receiving corps that was hit hard by injuries and transfers over the offseason.
That success has an unlikely source, though.
Sophomore defensive end DeMarvin Leal — Wydermyer’s roommate — said the tight end is constantly playing video games while the two are home.
“Jalen plays games after games after games,” Leal said. “He cannot stop playing Call of Duty.”
Wydermyer said though they mostly serve as a fun pastime, video games have helped him on the field as well.
“In Call of Duty, you have to have good hand-eye coordination, and I feel like I have to when you catch a ball, so I guess you can tie that into football somewhere,” Wydermyer said.
The strategy has paid off. So far this season, Wydermyer has recorded 184 yards on 19 receptions. In his freshman season, Wydermyer totaled 447 yards on 32 receptions with six touchdowns.
Wydermyer’s success is largely due to his development as both a receiving threat and blocker over the offseason, A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said.
“In the passing game, he’s done a really good job and continued to grow in the verticality he has with his size and length. Now he’s really grown into an on-line blocker and is doing a really good job blocking up front,” Fisher said. “He’s continuing to grow in that regard, becoming a complete tight end because a lot of guys today become either the athlete or the blocker. It’s hard to get a guy that can do both and likes to do both. He’s learning to do that and has been a big cog for us.”
The 6-foot-5, 265-pound tight end almost took a different path though.
While at Dickinson High School, Wydermyer was also a star basketball player. The athleticism Wydermyer showed in both sports is what drew Fisher to him in recruiting.
“We saw a big, long athlete that was going to be a big guy, very fluid, great acceleration, ball skills, balance, body control, really good basketball player,” Fisher said.
However, once the offers started coming in for football, including from North Carolina, Oregon, Ohio State, Michigan and Alabama according to 247sports, Wydermyer said the choice was clear.
“I’ve played football ever since I was little, I’ve played since I was a kid,” Wydermyer said. “I knew for sure once I started getting offers all around the country that I was going to pick football. But I was a pretty good basketball player, I would say.”
Wydermyer was in good company at Dickinson High School, as he has followed in the footsteps of his dad and brothers. His dad, Vincent, was a star running back at Wydermyer’s alma mater and is in the school’s Hall of Honor.
Former Texas quarterback Donnie Little and former A&M offensive lineman Calvin Whitfield also hail from Dickinson.
But there is another Dickinson alum that made it big: Heisman Trophy winner and former University of Houston and Detroit Lions quarterback Andre Ware. He joins Wydermyer’s dad in the Hall of Honor.
Though Wydermyer’s name may not be among Ware’s and his dad’s just yet, he said he appreciates being compared to them.
“The Heisman Trophy winner, that’s hard to go by,” Wydermyer said. “Not a lot of them come out of anywhere, so I look up to Andre Ware and I look up to my dad. It’s really an honor [to have] my name next to them on the Hall of Honor at Dickinson someday. It’s an honor being in the same conversation as them. I’m humble, it’s a humble experience.”
According to his teammates, there’s no doubt Wydermyer belongs among those great names.
“The way he gets off the ball and the way he’s so quick with his moves and everything, he’s just an unbelievable athlete,” Leal said.
Leal said the duo try to make each other better.
“We sit there, we talk every single day. I keep telling him to keep working, just like he tells me, and we just push each other,” Leal said. “When we’re in practice, I get after him like he gets after me. Every single day, we just try to make each other better on and off the field.”
Though he could have taken his talents to one of the many schools around the country that offered him or even pursued the basketball route, Wydermyer said he couldn’t picture himself anywhere but A&M.
“There’s such an atmosphere around Texas A&M University that I love,” Wydermyer said. “It’s close to home, my family comes to every game. It’s just a warm feeling that you get when you come to College Station.”