One of the gifts of youth sports is its ability to merge the gap between individuals who come from different walks of life. On the field or the court, only one thing exists, and that is team. For Jalen Fisher, sports have created a bond connecting his family in the stands to the one he plays for on the field.

The 5’9” sophomore is a gifted athlete who maintains a 3.7 GPA. He plays wide receiver for the Chaminade High School Eagles. In the offseason, Fisher runs track and is a long jumper. A sport he’s been able to earn a spot at the Junior Olympics in.

Being a student athlete at a high academic-achieving school demands a level of accountability Jalen Fisher readily accepts. He regularly checks in with his teachers after school and before practice to get as much additional help as possible.

Although football has been the focal point of most of his athletic career, it wasn’t his first choice. As a four-year-old, Fisher took to the baseball field in a tee-ball uniform.

Anyone who has watched little ones play tee-ball can recount both the amusement and anguish of trying to teach the mechanics of the game while mitigating tears in the dugout. The idea of wins and losses gets whittled down to just have fun. As it should be.

In rare cases, the competitive nature of some athletes can manifest even through a four-year-old. Such was the case for Fisher, who from an early age had a pronounced sense of determination and resourcefulness.

After watching his best friend play football, he convinced his mom, Dennise Washington, to sign him up at the age of 5. She was able to identify leadership qualities in her son who is the oldest of two. “Jalen is a natural role model and leads by example,” she said. “He’s always willing to help his teammates. Especially if he sees a need; Jalen steps up on and off the field.”

Much of the sophomore’s character is grounded in his faith. When asked who he looks up to he responded, “Ray Lewis because he’s an inspirational player who shares his faith.” His uncle, Dennis Waller attributes Jalen’s maturity to his “personal relationship with God.”

On the field, Fisher is developing as a receiver who can make elusive cuts in the slot. Similar to the north-south running displayed by his favorite college player, USC’s Heisman winner, Reggie Bush. In his first year on the team, Fisher was positioned at running back and wore number 22—the same as Bush did while playing at USC.

As a grade-schooler a chance encounter would set Fisher on a path to pay it forward when it comes to being a motivational teammate. After a San Diego Chargers home game versus the Ravens, he was able to high-five a player on their way into the locker room.

The fact that such a small gesture to acknowledge a young kid in the stands stuck with Jalen in a way that became an important factor in the way he interacts with others.

Fisher underscores the importance of making an effort to do the little things. A mandate of his coaches who stress whatever the outcome is, having each other’s back is mission critical to the success of the team. It’s clear from the resolve in his voice, the student athlete understands how tenacious work habits in football transfer to life.

One of those habits is perseverance through adversity. Jalen has turned his obstacles into opportunities. After sitting out for three months to rehab a dislocated knee, he’s had to play with a brace during the entire football season. Fisher is already looking to a career as an orthopedic surgeon to help others through similar circumstances.

“I can relate to and inspire other young athletes because of what I’ve gone through. Being positive and realistic about recovery time is something I can offer my patients,” he reflected.

When asked what he would tell other youth athletes, Fisher answered with resolve and maturity. “Follow your dreams,” he said. “As long as you have heart, don’t worry about height, weight or anything physical to hold you back. Get your grades up. And most important, believe God has your back.”