JACKSONVILLE – Jalen Camp doesn't feel like a project. A seventh-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft from Georgia Tech, Camp has been around football all his life and has played wide receiver since his sophomore season in high school in suburban Atlanta. He understood when Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer suggested after the 2021 NFL Draft that he was more of a developmental guy; after all, he spent a good bit of his college years playing in a triple-option scheme – a style so run-heavy that it produces few NFL-caliber receivers. Tech moved to a spread offense during Camp's final collegiate season, and he produced modest numbers. However, the 6-feet-2, 220-pound Camp showcased the kind of size and physical traits that Meyer covets – and so became the final piece of what is starting to look like a rookie class of significance. Here is senior correspondent Brian Sexton's recent conversation with Camp:
Question: You've started to show up in team drills during training camp and you made a nice nine-yard catch against the Cleveland Browns Saturday in the preseason opener. What's working for you and why are you feeling comfortable at this next level of football?
Answer: I think it's a little bit of natural ability for sure, just being an athlete. Receiver is probably one of the most athletic positions in the NFL – or in football in general – so that pairs with the last two years. I can say I really took something from each offense I was in in college – one being the triple option and the other being the spread option. In the triple option, we were asked to make those big plays down the field and that helped me elevate and grow my game. And those last two years in the spread option, being able to run a wide route tree, definitely also helped develop my game for sure. I think it also kind of stems from the confidence I instilled in myself growing up playing sports and life in general. I believe in myself no matter what. My sophomore year I began to make plays and I knew then that I could get to the NFL. It became a goal for me for sure to get to this point and still now I am focused on doing whatever I can to get better and make this team. But once again, I go back to the support from family and former coaches who believe in me. It helps me believe in myself.
Q: What are you doing on a daily basis that is making the biggest difference for you from one day to the next? Why are you getting stronger at a point where some rookies would seem overwhelmed?
A: The biggest thing is what every player says and that's the playbook; not knowing what you have to do and where you have to be – what depth you need to be at and the timing you need to have – kind of slows your game down. The faster you learn the playbook – all your assignments for each play – the faster you can just relax and just play football. That's when you play your fastest, when you're the most relaxed. So that's been my game plan. That's why I've been able to show what I can do.
Q:You played in the ACC. A quarterback named Trevor Lawrence and a running back named Travis Etienne Jr. dominated the league and were its best players the last three seasons. What was it like to be drafted by the same team and to learn that you would be working with them in the NFL?
A: It was definitely exciting for sure. With Trevor being the No. 1 overall pick and Travis being picked in the first round as well, and getting to be teammates … we faced each other for those four years I was in college, so I definitely got to watch them play. Just seeing the kind of playmakers they are, respectively, I was pretty excited for the chance to be on the same team with them in the NFL. It's exciting to think about what's ahead in Jacksonville. I am glad to be a part of it and can't wait to get to work.
Q: You're in highly competitive environment. I don't know that I've seen a camp with as high an intensity level as we've seen out there in a number of years. What has that been like from your perspective?
A: It's huge. Coach Meyer is a big competition-driven guy, so each and every day you're lined up fighting against somebody who is fighting for the exact same thing you're fighting for. That's the competitive nature he wants instilled in this team. For most of us, we've already had it inside of us, but he hones it down each and every day, which in turn helps each player develop. When you're going one-on-one, mano y mano, each day most guys are going to develop. It's pretty clear we have a talented room and it's pretty deep, so guys are bringing out the best in other guys and that's pretty special.
Q: What is the wide receivers room all about? There is no shortage of personalities and guys like DJ Chark Jr. and Marvin Jones Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr. have all talked about Coach Meyer spending a lot of time with your group. Give us your insight.
A: The leader in the room is the vet, Marvin Jones (Jr.). He always has little tidbits that help the younger guys and offers things we're seeing when it comes to routes, recognition and depth and things like that – how to run specific routes and how to see the coverages and learn what they're doing to defend us. He's been a really big help as well as DJ, Laviska – guys who have been in the league and experienced things like navigating your first year and studying your playbook and all those kinds of things that have helped me pick up on things faster. It's competitive, but guys are helping each other out and helping them play better so it's a fun room and a good place to work.
Q: You literally grew up around football. Your brother played with you at Georgia Tech. Your dad played at West Georgia and your uncle at Auburn, but you're the first Camp to make it to an NFL camp. How has your family reacted?
A: I think they understand the demands of camp and how tough it can be, and everybody is staying positive to support me. I typically don't talk too much about football other than the kind of questions they have: how's it going … all those kinds of things. So normally when I call them it's just to check in on them and kind of just remove myself from the game for whatever time I have to talk. They're very supportive. They came to the scrimmages we've had, and they were at the preseason game, so they have been huge supporting me and I'm really grateful for that.
Q: How about five words that describe Jalen Camp to someone who has no idea what you're all about?
A: Jalen Camp is a family-oriented guy who loves video games who is always going to have the nicest shoes on, is a physical player on the field and is a freak of nature. My size, my speed and my strength sets me apart at receiver. You have a lot of guys who are really fast guys, but I have the strength to pair with it and the size to kind of make me stand out.