Jalen Stroman insists his verbal commitment to Virginia Tech wasn’t a foregone conclusion.
Stroman is the younger brother of former Tech defensive back Greg Stroman, who established himself as a key member of the team’s Lunch Pail Defense during the transition from Frank Beamer to Justin Fuente as the Hokies’ head coach.
Greg offered his brother simple advice for dealing with the recruiting process.
“Follow your heart,” Stroman said.
That ultimately led him to choosing Tech over Duke and Virginia — a decision he revealed on Friday, his 17th birthday — but he heavily considered each of his top three schools up until about a month ago.
“It was back-and-forth,” Stroman said in a phone interview. “I just kept thinking to myself, dreaming about it, praying about it and it finally came to me — this is the place I want to be.”
His family was thrilled when he revealed the decision, as was his brother. The two have spent the last two months training together at Greg’s house while sheltering at home. The Washington Redskins defensive back built a gym in his basement and also has an outside training area.
“He just had a big smile on his face when I told him,” Jalen Stroman said.
One big difference for Jalen will be the man in charge of Tech’s defense, as longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster stepped down at the end of the 2019 season. Fuente’s decision to promote safeties coach Justin Hamilton to replace Foster factored into Stroman’s decision.
“I knew he was ready for it,” Stroman said. “He’s a great coach, he’s smart, he’s young and knows what he’s doing. I felt good with him being in that position. I felt great just knowing he would be defensive coordinator and be my coach.”
That relationship was more significant in Stroman’s case than most recruits, since Hamilton happens to be both his area recruiter and position coach.
“It’s a real good connection and it goes beyond just football,” Stroman said.
The younger Stroman is adamant about establishing his own legacy once he gets to Tech, but the initial plan the coaches have for him sounds similar to one his brother followed. Hamilton recruited the Jalen Stroman to play safety — Greg was a cornerback in Tech’s secondary — and he will also get an opportunity to play special teams as a returner.
The three-star safety is ranked No. 19 in Virginia for 2021, according to 247 Sports composite rankings, and No. 49 at his position.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder was a two-way starter for Patriot High School and was named All-Region 6B first team and All-Cedar Run District first team last season with 38 tackles (11 solo) and three interceptions. He had 23 catches for 454 yards with five touchdowns at receiver.
“They want me at safety, but coach Fuente said I could play special teams if I want to, and they may let me play some offense if it comes to that,” Jalen said. “It’s all up to them, wherever they need I can go play, wherever they think I can make an impact.”
His brother was a dynamic special teams player during his career with more than 1,500 return yards and four punt return touchdowns. Tech hasn’t returned a punt for a touchdown since Greg Stroman’s 91-yard return against North Carolina in October 2017.
“I really look at I don’t have to do what he did,” Jalen Stroman said. “I have to go in there and play my game. I’m going to go in there and do what I have to do to be the best player I can be out there.”