Millennium’s Early family not too late

Millennium senior Jalan Early, left, poses for a photograph with his father and Tigers football head coach Lamar Early on June 5 at Millennium High School in Goodyear. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]

Tigers coach Lamar, 2-sport star and quarterback Jalan prepare for big year

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

After three years, two schools and three Division I offers at a different position, Jalan Early is going to be his father’s starting quarterback.

And if early returns are any indication, Millennium opponents will wish he stayed at linebacker and did not have the ball in his hands as often.

Early and a mostly new cast of skill position players showed well in the 7-on-7 tournaments. They peaked by placing second to three-time defending 6A champ Chandler in the June 4 tournament at ASU.

“Last night there was a lot of eyes opened in this state at ASU. We were in the championship against Chandler and he played pretty well. As a dad and a coach I was proud,” Millennium coach Lamar Early said on June 5. “I told him to embrace every moment and don’t rush it. Don’t do too much, just enjoy the senior year.”

Jalan’s senior year shapes up as his only season of being the coach’s son and starting quarterback. That is fairly consistent, considering he was not “the coach’s son” until high school.

Lamar Early worked his way up the coaching ladder and was the head coach at Estrella Foothills from 2010-2016. Until the final year he had no involvement coaching his son, approaching youth football as a parent only.

“The toughest part, I guess, is not having that control. But being in the stands as a parent and watching him pick up things from somebody else, we had our distance, which was good,” Lamar Early said. “Now it’s been a blessing. It’s been fun, if challenging at times. I gave up coaching the quarterbacks when I was back at Estrella and part of that was because he was coming up.”

A former college two-sport athlete, Lamar also did not try to channel his son’s energy into football.

Jalan was a starting forward on the Tigers’ recent 5A runner-up basketball team.

“Growing up I liked both sports. I played baseball as well but I don’t play it anymore because it’s hard to juggle all of it,” Jalan Early said. “I like both. Right now football is going good.”

Football is going good after a bit of a detour. In 2016 Jalan played quarterback mostly on the Estrella Foothills freshman team, with a one-game stint as a varsity backup.

He looked like he would be in a battle for the Wolves’ starting job. But late in the spring of 2017, James Carter left the Millennium job after only one season.

After that school year ended, Lamar Early accepted the job and there was not much time for conversation.

Though the schools are in the same city, Estrella Foothills and Millennium are nearly 15 miles apart. Daylon “DJ” Storey was the only Tigers player Jalan knew well.

“I only knew one person and that was DJ. We grew up and played Pop Warner together. Him getting the job here was kind of crazy. I didn’t even know about it until one day he was like, ‘We’re moving,’” Jalan Early said.

Arriving as the coach’s son — of the third varsity coach in three years sounded difficult. But many of his new teammates had it worse.

“The most difficult part was the timing of it, even at Estrella for them. Here, they didn’t have a head coach through spring ball. At the same time, I was going through back surgery, the next day after I was offered the job. So the biggest thing was not being able to implement my vision and bring my own coaching staff. I really didn’t get to coach the kids until July,” Lamar Early said. “For him, it’s a new school and new program. But those seniors in my first year, they were put in that situation. It wasn’t as hard for me as it was for them.”

Jalan said finding common ground with his new teammates was not as difficult as it sounds. He also realized he would have to work his way up at a bigger school.

Jalan played more on the Estrella Foothills varsity as a freshman than on the deeper Millennium team as a sophomore. Most of the year, he sat behind a senior and junior.

Two things changed before his junior season. Jalan had a growth spurt and senior Zareq Brown emerged as the Tigers’ top quarterback.

“My defensive coordinator care to me and said, ‘Let’s play Jalan over here too.’ It wasn’t my decision but it was my decision. He was a good player for us. He played some quarterback. We lined him up at receiver. He played linebacker,” Lamar Early said. “The guy he’s going to be this year, I don’t know. But we’re expecting some big things from him.”

Millennium entered 2018 as a bit of a wild card, moving down from 6A and having more of a true offseason, but losing three prominent transfers to Centennial.

By the second game, a 30-27 win at Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge, Lamar Early realized the program was turning the corner. The Tigers announced their arrival a week later, beating neighborhood rival Desert Edge 24-20 on a last second score.

“We’re on the road and playing a great program. We went down there and won, which nobody gave us a chance to,” Lamar Early said. “That’s when I said, ‘Okay, we have something.’ And the next week was Desert Edge. Then we’re 3-0.”

Millennium finished 9-3 and reached the second round of the 5A playoffs, losing to state runner up Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep 14-0.

Jalan Early said senior receivers Kyle St. Pierre, Larry Craft and Kaysan Barnett, as well as linebacker Jamarlo Campbell, are ready to make an impact in 2019. Barnett will play more as a wide receiver after intercepting seven passes last season.

“We’re putting Millennium on the map. We’ve got more eyes on us so we’ve got to go out and perform,” Jalan Early said.

While none of his early offers are as a quarterback, Jalan Early finds more eyes on him.

NAU was his first offer, followed by Dixie State and Yale. At this point colleges view him as an all-around athlete, though his 6-3 200-pound frame suggests his college position may be safety or a linebacker hybrid.

He said he will likely take an unofficial visit to Utah and that other FBS schools have shown some interest.

“The NAU offer caught me by surprise. It was unexpected and made me want to work even more,” Jalan Early said. “Yale was shocking as well. That’s a big one too.”

Lamar Early said he is enjoying the process and wants his son too as well, instead of thinking ahead too much.

“As a dad, it’s fun to get those calls. The first offer, the coach called and asked, ‘Have you talked to Jalan yet?’ I said no and he said he’d call me back. Then Jalan told me, ‘NAU just offered me.’ And then they called me back. Going through it right now is kind of fun. He’s got a lot of interest,” Lamar Early said. “We’re blessed to get the Yale offer. And he was overwhelmed by it. But I told him to stay humble.”

As a Millennium basketball assistant, Lamar also will not ask his son to concentrate on football and football offers his senior year. Jalan averaged 8.5 points and 5.3 rebounds in 2018-19 and is one of five starters returning for the clear 5A favorites.

He is playing in some of the basketball summer leagues when he can.

“I’m definitely going to play basketball this year and I’m excited about that too,” Jalan Early said. “Switching the culture around here has been fun. Whenever I don’t have football I’m in basketball. It’s football first with the season coming up.”

Millennium junior quarterback Jalan Early takes off running during the Tigers’ season-opening victory over Maricopa Aug. 24, 2018 in Goodyear. Early backed up senior Zareq Brown and started at linebacker for the Tigers during their 9-3 season. This year, he will start at quarterback for his father, head coach Lamar Early. [Mike Yduarte/For West Valley Preps]

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