Leaving his mark is important for Cincinnati’s Jaleel Hytchye. That’s why he’s “grinding” his way through track season now in hopes of winning a state championship before he heads to Kentucky to try and help rejuvenate the football program under new coach Mark Stoops.
“I am focusing on track, but I am lifting (weights) to get stronger and hopefully I’ll make a run at a state championship and leave a legacy as far as that goes,” Hytchye, a cornerback, said. “I am working out with my trainer.”
Track season has had “ups and downs” for him because he keeps aggravating a hamstring injury.
“It has been nagging me every time I step on the track,” Hytchye said.
Still, he has Ohio’s best time in the 100-meter dash and second best in the 200-meter dash — and he’s not run the 200 since the first meet of the track season.
“I have an opportunity to win state. It’s just a matter of staying healthy and fresh (for the state meet June 7-8),” Hytchye said.
That state meet will keep Hytchye from reporting to UK quite as early in June as some Stoops’ recruits, but he plans to be on campus by June 20.
“I came down for the spring game. I am actually part of the reason that (running back) Mikel Horton committed. I took him and (Conner quarterback) Drew Barker out to meet fans,” Hytchye said. “I got to meet a lot of folks. I knew that big crowd was coming. I have seen how great the Kentucky fans are. Once they get even more reason to believe, I know how passionate they are. It’s just a matter of giving them hope and Stoops gave them hope. I knew they would have a big turnout at the spring game. I am ready to rock and roll right now.”
What about UK’s chances with Barker, who will make his commitment public Friday?
“We’ve got to get him on the team,” Hytchye said.
Same goes for Hytchye’s teammate, receiver Derek Keif. He’s a 6-5 receiver who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds and averaged 90 yards per game for LaSalle High School as a junior. He’s got offers from Ohio State, Notre Dame and Alabama.
“He’s interested in Kentucky. I think it is between them, Alabama and Ohio State,” Hytchye said. “I basically leave him alone, but I do try to influence him a bit. I don’t want him to think he should go to UK just because I did. But I have told him with the type player he is, he would thrive at Kentucky. It’s the perfect opportunity for him. He loves it, too. It’s just a matter that he wants to take his time. As he gets closer to a decision, I will talk to him more.”
Hytchye said practicing against Keif and other Division I receivers LaSalle has produced “is what got me better” the last few years. “I go agains the best every day. Not every high school player gets to do that,” Hytchye said. “Derek catches the ball so well. He has real good body control and is great at catching the ball. He’ll be great in college.”
That’s why Hytchye has worked so hard to get Keif and others to Kentucky. He was the first player to verbally commit to UK after Stoops was hired. Hytchye — his father is Cuban and that’s where his name come froms — became a fan favorite on Twitter (his screen name is @TheRealLeel_9). He’s ranked as one of the nation’s top 50 cornerbacks by some recruiting services and has run the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds. He had scholarship offers from Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, Purdue, and Vanderbilt as well others.
“I feel even better about Kentucky now than I did then,” Hytchye said. “It felt right for me and I wanted to be the first high school commit and be the one to get it rolling for the rest of the class. I know I have a shot to play and make early contributions. I have a lot of goals set in the SEC to make a name for myself on campus. I don’t think I could have made a better decision.”