There was a buzz surrounding Jaden Walley before he even set foot on the D’Iberville High School campus in 2017.
The chatter started in Leakesville where he took over as the starting quarterback for Greene County as a freshman and put up impressive numbers — 1,291 yards passing and 10 touchdowns to go with 1,060 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground.
When the Walley family moved to D’Iberville prior to his sophomore year of high school, Greene County’s loss became a game-changing gain for the Warriors.
“When he came here as a sophomore, he came in August,” D’Iberville coach Eric Collins said. “Right away he made an impression as a great character kid. I didn’t know anything about him athletically, but I knew he was a great character kid. I got to meet his family and I understood why he had great character because his family has great character. We knew we were getting a great family moving into D’Iberville.”
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It turns out Jaden Walley is far from the only talented athlete in the family. His brother, Justin, is a gifted sophomore cornerback/receiver who has also proven to be a standout at D’Iberville.
Jaden has completed 57.1 percent of his passes for 542 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions as a junior. He has proven dangerous as a runner, carrying 123 times for 1,020 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Jaden’s most impressive performance this season came in a 52-50 come-from-behind win at Pascagoula on Oct. 5 when he threw for four touchdowns and ran for four more.
A week later, Justin came up with two interceptions in a 49-28 win over Hancock. He returned one 99 yards for a touchdown and took the other one back 71 yards to the Hancock 3.
Justin has six catches for 201 yards and two scores as a receiver. At cornerback, he has three interceptions and 34 tackles.
The first score
The inevitable happened on Aug. 24 when Jaden and Justin hooked up for the first time for a scoring play on the high school level — a 67-yard pass in a 49-33 victory over Picayune. Jaden rushed down the field, wrapped his arms around his brother and lifted him off the ground.
A Sun Herald photo caught the moment.
“That’s all on my family’s Facebook, screen savers,” Jaden said. “They thought it was the best moment in the world.”
With both brothers receiving plenty of snaps as underclassmen, there should be plenty more touchdowns on the way.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Justin said. “Back at home, we played the whole time. We talked about playing together in high school and now it’s happening.”
Colleges closing in
Justin and Jaden are versatile athletes who can fill a variety of roles. Jaden has lined up at receiver this season when Michael Kozlowski takes over at quarterback and he has seen some time in the secondary on defense over the last two years.
While the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Jaden has shown significant improvement as a passer this year, he could fill a variety of roles on the next level and colleges are showing interest. Alcorn State was the first school to offer Jaden as a sophomore and Southern Miss followed up with its own offer in September. Tulane and Kentucky have also been staying in touch.
As for which position he’d like to play in college, Jaden is keeping an open mind.
“Wherever we need to be successful, I’ll go and play,” he said.
Collins sees a bright future ahead for Jaden, who has a 40-yard dash time of 4.6 seconds.
“Somebody asked me how fast he was and I said, ‘He’s as fast as he needs to be because I never see him get caught,’” Collins said. “What’s special is he’s got a burst from zero to 5 yards as fast as anybody I’ve coached. A guy he reminds me of is (former Mississippi State receiver) Chad Bumphis. He has a similar running style, a similar burst. Chad played in the NFL so I think the sky is the limit for him.”
The Walleys also claim a couple of relatives who are NFL draft picks — former West Virginia cornerback Dee McCann and current Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Donte Moncrief.
While Justin and Jaden are already established high school standouts, they have a 9-year-old brother by the name of Jordan, or “Champ,” who is an up-and-coming athlete in his own right. Collins quipped that he’d be the “third-fastest player on our team.”
D’Iberville is 5-2 overall and 3-1 in Region 4-6A headed into Friday’s crucial contest at first-place Gulfport, which has won 13 consecutive region contests and sits at 7-0 overall.