2023 NFL Draft

Interview: WR Jalen Moreno-Cropper Honoring Grandfather’s Legacy On Way To NFL

Fresno State wide receiver Jalen Moreno-Cropper is a sleeper in this year’s NFL Draft. He tore up the Mountain West Conference, recording 220 receptions for 2,701 yards, and 21 receiving touchdowns in his four years as a Bull Dog and is now tearing up the East-West Shrine Bowl.

Yesterday, I got the opportunity to talk to Moreno-Cropper who talked to Steelers Depot about his journey as a player and person and what he is looking to accomplish in the near future.

When you watch Moreno-Cropper one of the first things that sticks out is his route running ability. He has a quick release and and is smooth in the route running that helps him create a ton of space for quarterbacks to easily connect with him. It is a big reason he is fifth all-time in receptions at Fresno State.

When you watch him he has a bit of a basketball type movement like he is setting you up for a cross over. Because of this I asked him if he had a background in basketball.

“I played basketball,” Moreno-Cropper told Steelers Depot. “Really [I played] football and basketball hand in hand growing up. I played varsity [basketball] freshman year, sophomore year and junior year.

Going off that, Moreno-Cropper explained how basketball has helped him as a football player.

“When you train for football, you always think about your releases are like basketball. You want to get him [the defender] to cross over when you see him here [to] be able to do certain things. And I feel like that’s definitely something that I felt like being able to add that to my game was very helpful.”

Helpful it was, as his great college carer was capped off by an excellent senior campaign where he caught 83 passes for 1,086 yards and five touchdowns. For his excellent senior year, Moreno-Cropper credited Fresno State for helping develop him over his four years.

“I really liked [Fresno State] because just the way I developed I felt like it was different than a player in a Power Five school. You go through a lot of adversity knowing that you come from a Group of Five school, not really a big school. So just being there, having two good head coaches in Coach [Jeff] Tedford, and Coach [Kalen] DeBoer was definitely something that added to my development.”

Moreno-Cropper talked about going through adversity and part of that was losing his grandfather, who he called his best friend, to COVID-19 in 2020.

“I mean he was one of the main role models for myself, I mean the male role models at least. He was my best friend growing up. I spent every day with him, going into high school, middle school, elementary. He would take me at every practice, five o’clock morning lifts in high school, he was taking me to them. Just being around him definitely shaped me to the man I am today, and I’m truly blessed to have had a grandfather like him.”

Moreno-Cropper decided to honor his grandfather by adding Moreno to his last name this past summer. Before 2022, Moreno-Cropper was just Jalen Cropper. But in honor of his grandfather’s legacy he thought the right thing to do was honor him.

“Just any way I can always pay back to him to show him that I’m not only doing this for myself but [for] him and my family. And I feel like that [it’s] the right thing to do this year. I think that going into my senior year, obviously I knew that this was gonna be my last year coming into this year. So knowing that Senior Night, knowing that it was my senior year last year, letting the fans remember me as Moreno-Cropper not just Cropper. So that’s definitely something that I always felt like that I needed, you know, personally.”

Moreno-Cropper continued to honor his grandfather’s legacy this year by passing out bookbags to kids in the local area and holding camps using his NIL money.

“I really think NIL was a great way for me [to give back]. Growing up, it wasn’t so much money in my family, so I felt like that [giving back] was never really a problem for me. I felt like being able to have that NlL platform, the things that I was able to do with that, you know, I had my own camp did a backpack drive, and there were certain things where just being able to help out kids. My passion has always been to help kids.”

Being able to help out his community turned Moreno-Cropper into one of the most beloved players at Fresno State. However, he does not want his journey to end there. So far he is having a really good Shrine Bowl and has been able to meet with a bunch of NFL scouts, including the Pittsburgh Steelers in an interview he described as, “pretty good.”

“It was pretty good. I think there’s a very good connection with them.”

Moreno-Cropper also has proven himself at the Shrine Bowl so far and with his ability to also return kicks, his chance of making an NFL roster somewhere are pretty high. A receiver who can separate and catch a lot of passes are always going to have a place in the NFL. Add the fact he can return kicks and punts, well he will be a hot commodity come the NFL Draft.

However, before the NFL Draft comes the NFL Combine, something Moreno-Cropper just recently received an invite to. Moreno told Steelers Depot he wants to show the NFL world how fast he is.

“To show the guys how fast I am, how I can move. That’s the name of the Combine now: speed. The game, speed. You know, offenses like speed, so I just want to show people that I have speed and it’s just natural speed.”

With the draft season speeding up, don’t be surprised if Moreno-Cropper continues to impress he sky rockets up draft boards. He has the stats, now he just needs the eyes on him. With the Steelers needing a slot wide receiver, Moreno-Cropper could be the perfect fit as all Shrine Bowl he has been playing in the slot. With interest obviously there he will definitely be a name to watch in these upcoming months.

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