Saturday was a celebration. Not just for multi-sport athlete Jaylen Lloyd and his future, but for the community that witnessed a young man become a playmaker.
An Omaha kid born with exceptional inherited talent who’s making something of himself, Lloyd walked into Fred Arkoosh Jr. Gym at the North Boys & Girls Club of Omaha with his family and the spotlight. The crowd of friends, families and mentors all came to see him. There was CEO of Boys & Girls Club of the Midlands Richard Webb, director of the North Boys & Girls Club of Omaha Adrial Mitchell and former Husker Abdul Muhammad, who is the sports and fitness director at that particular Boys & Girls Club. Former Husker and Green Bay Packer Steve Warren and Heisman Trophy winner, Omaha native Johnny “The Jet” Rodgers came to see the next Omaha kid making the big time.
Lloyd sat with his family and said a few words before a video rolled. That short video showed his growth and revealed his commitment to Nebraska. He’ll compete in both track and football as a Husker. Lloyd’s even got his eyes on the 2024 Olympic Trials. He wants to work out a way with coaches so he can potentially qualify through the schedule of a dual-sport college athlete.
Muhammad told a few stories of the soft-spoken Lloyd, an exceptional athlete since birth. His mother, Dahlia (Ingram) Lloyd was a nine-time All-American track athlete at Nebraska. She didn’t speak during the short ceremony and she didn’t need to. She pulled on her old letterman’s jacket while her son slid into a scarlet Nebraska bomber jacket and swapped his black boots for some bright red and white high tops. Dahlia’s gotten upset when Jaylen missed marks, Muhammad explained in one story. It was the National Championships in Kansas and she’d tell Adante—who was husband, father and coach all at once—to coach their son. Adante asked Muhammad to offer Jaylen encouragement.
“For a coach to ask another coach to talk to his son to get him to perform like himself,” Muhammad said. “I can’t remember what I told him but all I know is after I was done the attitude changed, the bounce came back, he went to the clap and when he took off it was something amazing.”
Then there was the time they were out in California. Boys & Girls Club sent four exception athletes. Jaylen focused on long jump and the 100. First jump was something crazy, Muhammad summarized, and moved into first. But there was another jumper who posed a threat. He took off down the stretch and shot out of a cannon into the lead. Crowd went crazy and Jaylen dropped to second.
Muhammad, typically out-spoken, hyped Jaylen to the crowd. They hadn’t seen anything yet. This last jump was going to be special. Uncharacteristically, Jaylen cupped his hands to his mouth and hollered to the crowd. Muhammad got chills in anticipation.
“When he hit that tape and went up, he came down in Nebraska,” Muhammad said. “We were in Sacramento and it looked like he came down in Nebraska.”
That jump of 7.74 meters won the National Junior Olympics last July. That backed up Muhammad’s claim that Lloyd is the best athlete in the state. He pointed to the table filled with trophies and medals. All-American claims, State Championships, national accolades. Just the kind of guy that new Nebraska head coach Matt Rhule likes to get into his program.
Rhule communicated with the Nebraska track coaches and offered Lloyd before he was even introduced as head coach. The former Omaha Central standout who finishes a Warrior said the coaching staff made him feel like a priority. Lloyd was ready to commit to run track at Florida but postponed his announcement due to illness. That gave Rhule all the opening he needed.
“People probably didn’t think I was sick but I couldn’t talk,” Lloyd said. “They actually called my parents and I heard from my parents. I didn’t know how to feel at the time, it was unreal. It changed the game a lot.”
Rhule’s pedigree for developing exceptional track athletes into exception football players stood out to him. Coaches can teach at the collegiate level. But nobody can coach speed. When Lloyd took his official visit last weekend he felt like family in Memorial Stadium. The staff told him who they plan to bring in as the receivers coach. They also asked Lloyd not to share that so he declined to answer and flashed a smile when asked on Saturday.
With his commitment, he joins Westside teammate Tristan Alvano at Nebraska. Those two are friends going back to when they played basketball together at 8 years old. Alvano committed on Friday. They’re the latest in-state members of Nebraska’s 2023 recruiting class. They might not be the last. Lloyd teased that Lincoln East standout Malachi Coleman could be a track and football athlete if he commits to Nebraska. Then there’s Lincoln High athlete Beni Ngoyi, who’s committed to Iowa State but the Nebraska coaching staff is making a late push to flip.