NOTE from America’s Car-Mart – In case you’re wondering why we’re sharing a story about a college football player, let us tell you. Jalen Catalon is an ambassador for America’s Car-Mart, having signed a name, image and likeness (NIL) agreement with us. With all the companies approaching him to help them with their marketing and promotions, Jalen conducted his due diligence to learn about Car-Mart.
We shared what Car-Mart is all about, and he asked good questions. We told Jalen that Car-Mart helps people. We work hard to help credit-challenged customers obtain used car financing and purchase a dependable vehicle. We’re also deeply committed to our communities. Jalen enjoyed our stories of caring and sharing and learning about our toy, food and fan drives and more. He, himself, believes in giving back, and he felt Car-Mart aligned with his personal values.
So, Jalen said ‘yes’ to Car-Mart. And now we’d like to share his story of overcoming adversity and chasing his dream. We hope you’ll enjoy it and find some nuggets of encouragement and advice that you can apply to your own lives.
There was just something about football for Jalen Catalon. He was four years old when he was first handed a football.
“It felt right being in my hands. I always had a toy ball when I was younger. And I liked to watch football,” says Jalen, America’s Car-Mart ambassador and redshirt junior safety for the University of Arkansas. Unfortunately, Jalen is sidelined for the season with a shoulder injury.
Growing up, Jalen was a three-sport kid playing football, basketball and baseball. But it was football that stole his heart. He felt a little more urgency to excel and be the best he could be as a football player. Jalen had a little extra passion and love for the game of football. Besides, his dad, even though a baseball guy, inspired him to play football.
He’s a well-rounded football player having played many positions including quarterback, running back, safety, linebacker and receiver. In middle school, he was a running back. As a junior and senior at Mansfield Legacy High school, Mansfield, Texas, he played safety and quarterback. He racked up the yards and statistics and was named the All-Area Defensive Player of the Year by The Dallas Morning News as a junior. Jalen was well on his way to fulfilling his dream of playing college football.
But Jalen experienced a bump in the road. During the first game of his senior season, he suffered a season-ending knee injury that kept him on the sideline. “That’s when I wanted it [football] even more,” says Jalen. “Football was definitely my safe haven.”
This stressful moment tested Jalen’s resolve. But with faith and hard work, he successfully rehabilitated his knee. “When something like this happens, you have to look yourself in the mirror and really have faith. You must keep pushing and going. I kept my head down. I took my rehab seriously,” he says. “Through the process, I started seeing myself, and that brought me a lot of confidence. Now I’m back healthy.”
Jalen credits his family, peers, and trainers for all their help in his rehab journey. Despite not playing his senior year, the four-start recruit was recruited to play college football at Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Ohio State, Oklahoma, TCU and Texas, Texas Tech, Wisconsin, and others.
On to Arkansas
He chose the University of Arkansas to continue his football dream. “It was the best place for me to succeed on and off the field,” Jalen remarks. “This was a program, that when I selected it, Arkansas was on the downhill years. And I wanted to be part of something to make a change and to help build something.”
Again, an injury sidelined Jalen midway through the 2021 season. Armed with amazing toughness and resiliency, he tackled the rehabilitation process. “I don’t let my adversity define me. Injury has taught me to control what you can control,” he says. “Adversity determines what type of person you are. And it teaches life lessons.”
Jalen was named a 2022 Phil Steele Preseason First Team All-America and First-Team All-SEC, and Second Team AP Preseason All-America Team. He says his biggest accomplishment is being voted Captain by his teammates, in 2021 and 2022.
Unfortunately, Jalen is out for the season with a shoulder injury. So, once again, he must tackle rehabilitation. And like he did before, he knows how to work through the process.
On the field
For Jalen, there’s no better feeling than when he’s on the football field. “It’s like a dream,” says Jalen. “You blink a couple of times.”
“There are goose bumps for sure. It’s crazy. The stadium is rocking,” Jalen adds. “There’s nothing like it, and I feel like there’s nothing I can’t do.”
On to his dream
And now Jalen’s dream and ambition is to play in the NFL. Yet, he has another goal – to be a mentor. “I want to inspire others to chase their dreams. I always look at it as ‘we,’ and not ‘me.’ I want to inspire others, and show them what they can do,” he says. “I want to give them hope. I made it, so I want to inspire others.”
So, yes, there’s something about football for Jalen. It’s his dream and his goal, and he’s not finished yet. As he continues his football journey, Jalen strives to learn, evolve and apply the wisdom of his experiences to his current situation.
“I was a kid who had a ball and a dream, and I stuck with it,” concludes Jalen. “It’s my peace. I just love playing football.”
Read the stories about America’s Car-Mart Ambassador Jalen Catalon.