The playmaker

Ex-Bull Dogs quarterback has turned into clutch receiver

Jaylen Flemmons doesn’t have a lot of down time during Columbus North football games and practices.

Not only is the senior the Bull Dogs’ leading receiver, he also plays in the team’s nickel package on defense and is the backup quarterback. He’s a big reason why North is off to a 3-1 start and was ranked in the state’s top 10 before Friday’s loss at Franklin Central.

“Jaylen is pretty busy at practice, and he was busy all summer long,” North coach Tim Bless said. “We’re trying to get as many snaps out of Jaylen as we can without just running the tires off with him.”

Flemmons was a quarterback until last season, when he moved to wide receiver. He became the Bull Dogs’ top pass catcher with 38 receptions for 465 yards and eight touchdowns.

Through four games this year, Flemmons already is approaching those numbers. He has 26 catches for 447 yards and seven scores.

“Jaylen is doing the little things right,” Bless said. “He’s a veteran. He’s a returning starter. He understands his fit and the scheme each and every play, whether he is the No. 1 option or not. He plays every snap hard.”

Junior Trenton Kelley, who took over as the starting quarterback this season, built an instant rapport with Flemmons. After putting up modest numbers in a season-opening blowout at Franklin, Flemmons has more than 400 yards and all seven of his touchdowns the past three weeks.

Three of those touchdowns came in a Week 3 win against Bloomington North, all of which came on one-play drives.

“As wide receivers, we think if we’re one-on-one, we’re always open,” Flemmons said. “Then, our quarterback has been playing phenomenal this year in just getting us the ball.”

Flemmons has been aided by having a couple other big-play weapons in the Bull Dogs’ receiving corps. Senior Illinois State recruit Tristan Bailey has 14 catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns, and junior D’Andre Scruggs has 12 receptions for 172 yards and two scores.

Those players’ presence keeps opponents from giving Flemmons too much attention.

“We knew going into the season that we had a lot of big-play athletes on the perimeter, and Jaylen is certainly one of them, and he’s had a great season so far,” Bless said. “He’s also the beneficiary of having a bevy of talent around him, so a team can’t really (isolate) in on Jaylen and try to double cover him because then we have other athletes and a quarterback that’s going to put the ball where it needs to be.”

Since last season, Flemmons has put on about 10 pounds and is now puts 200 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame. He’s also improved his speed to 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

Much of that speed improvement came from running track. He has been on North’s state-qualifying 4×100-meter relay team the past two years and was part of the school-record setting unit this spring, when he also was a regional qualifier in the 400.

But despite his numbers, Flemmons, who also is a two-year starter in basketball, still isn’t receiving attention from Division I football programs. He has been talking to Division II University of Indianapolis, as well as Taylor and Indiana Wesleyan.

“I always wanted to play college football at the Division I level,” Flemmons said. “That’s been my goal since I was probably about 4 years old. But I’d certainly be happy just playing football to get free college.”

If he continues to perform the way he has, Flemmons may get that opportunity.

But for now, Flemmons is focused on helping North bounce back from its first loss of the season. The Bull Dogs host Terre Haute South on senior night at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

“I think we got off to a pretty good start,” Flemmons said. “Obviously, it could have been better because we had a bunch of missed assignments on Friday, causing us not to come out with a victory. But we can definitely improve on those and make the season better than it already is. The goal is win out, but we have to take each week one step at a time. We can’t get ahead of ourself.”

Jaylen Flemmons

Name: Jaylen Flemmons

School: Columbus North

Year: Senior

Position: Wide receiver/safety

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 200

Sports: Football, basketball, track and field

Author photo
Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.