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Meaning behind Mills’ jersey number

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Those who knew him best will tell you that he is not very interested in sport. Uhkoto Chatman. Instead, they would describe the man from Texas as a hardcore news junkie. Before liver cancer claimed his life on November 16, 2017, Uhkoto loved little more than chilling out at his Dallas-area home watching 24-hour cable TV news channels.

If anything brought Uhkoto so much joy, perhaps it was the close relationship he had with his nephew, a boy who dreamed of becoming an aviator or brain surgeon, loved the color green and made loved sports, but also sincerely held his uncle Uhkoto in high esteem. Eventually, however, another man would compete for the child’s admiration.

“Right from the start,” Jalen Mills confesses, “My first love was basketball. My mom loved basketball and took me to Dallas Mavericks games – Dirk Nowitzki, Jason terry, Jerry stackhouse, all these guys. As great as these hometown players were, none could hold the candle in Jalen’s eyes to Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers.

The 6-foot guard – known for his braided hairstyles and by his two nicknames, AI and The Answer – delighted and inspired a prepubescent Jalen with his field killer instinct and fearlessness when taking on much taller players and taller than him. When Jalen played youth basketball, he tried to emulate Iverson, down to his trademark uniform style.

“I tried to grow my hair out. I had a little bit of fun and tried to have braids, but my mom wouldn’t let me,” Jalen recalls. “I used to wear the headband, the finger guard where he had his number, a sleeve on my arm. I had all his shoes, the Reebok Questions and Answers. I had his 76er jersey back when they were red, black and a little bit of gold. “

By the time Jalen reached high school, however, he had fallen in love with basketball because, as he admits with a quiet laugh, “guys got too big, too fast!” He moved on to football, starting as a quarterback and wide receiver. During practice with other wide receivers entering his sophomore year at Lancaster High, just south of Dallas, the defensive back coach approached Jalen. He remembers the man saying, “Hey, I know you think you’re a catcher, but you really are a DB. Why don’t you come and train with me? I think you have a chance ‘get a scholarship as a cornerback or in high school.’ “

Now a high school coach at the University of Missouri, Aaron Fletcher had made an offer and a prediction that would have a positive impact on Jalen’s life to this day.

“I loved competing, doing plays and having fun with the guys who play football. It’s a kid’s sport for me, ”adds Jalen. “If I could go to college and do a full tour, that would be a dream. My mom didn’t have the funds to send me to college. I had this opportunity to use what God gave me. blessed, so why not. “

Jalen agreed to move on to defense, and it paid almost immediate dividends. From its first year, the main college programs showed a keen interest. However, in class, Jalen’s GPA could not keep up. Coach Fletcher knew Jalen needed to take another step – towards a better school and a better environment that would help his player focus on his studies. His senior year, Jalen transferred to nearby DeSoto High School, and Fletcher went with him. Together they helped guide their new school to a 10-2 record.

As Fletcher predicted, Jalen eventually got the grades to earn a football scholarship at Louisiana State University. As a true freshman in 2012, Jalen started all 13 games for the Tigers and finished with first-year All-America first-team honors. It wasn’t until a senior season cut short by injury that he missed any games at LSU. However, Jalen had done enough to be selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

“My trainer has changed my life,” Jalen remarks of Fletcher’s continued influence. “My early years in high school, I was a bit of a problem kid, I was just trying to be around cool kids. He’s mostly about helping kids. It’s a blessing. I talk to him. always. He’s still my mentor. “


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