Wise's Jalil Farooq first made a name on stacked 8th grade national title team

Chad Ricardo
·7 min read

OU commit first made a name on stacked 8th grade title team originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Wise High School senior wide receiver Jalil Farooq’s storied high school career has helped the Pumas win two state titles. His playmaking ability earned him an invite to the All-American Bowl on NBC and made him one of the most sought-after recruits in the country.

In 2019, the Oklahoma commit was a difference-maker in every facet of the game, contributing on offense, defense and special teams as he accounted for 1,386 yards from scrimmage, 24 touchdowns, 35 tackles, 11 passes defensed and 3 interceptions. The Pumas have developed their fair share of uber-talented student athletes in the last five years, but head coach DaLawn Parrish said Farooq’s attitude and willingness to do what’s best for the team set him apart from day one.

“As a pure football player, he’s arguably the greatest I’ve ever coached. He’s willing to play anywhere. He’s not just a wide receiver, he can line up in the slot, running back and he can even throw the ball. Defensively, he can line up anywhere and have an instant impact,” Parrish said. 

“A lot of guys with his ability try to dictate what, when and how they’re going to play. When Jalil came in as a freshman, he said, ‘Coach, I’ll play anywhere. Wherever you need me, that’s where I’ll be.’”

But for all that Farooq has accomplished in the last three years, his array of talent first garnered national attention in the 2016 FBU (Football University) National Championship tournament. Prior to his freshman year at Wise, Farooq brought his team-first mindset to a tryout for Team Maryland, an all-star team made up of some of the top student-athletes from across the region that would go on to compete for an FBU National Championship. The middle school tournament is held annually, and at that point, it was composed of 64 teams at three grade levels, representing several states across the country.

Team Maryland head coach Terrence Byrd and team director Mike Anderson had fallen short of their goal of winning the eighth-grade title in 2015, despite fielding a team with stars Rakim Jarrett (University of Maryland), Mekhail Sherman (University of Georgia) and Blake Corum (University of Michigan). They knew that in order to win in 2016, they’d need student-athletes who could affect the game in a multitude of ways. Enter Jalil Farooq.

“The first time I saw Jalil, he was playing in the GYFL [Grassroots Youth Football League] with Bowie One,” Anderson said. “Caleb Williams was the quarterback, so I expected for them to just let Caleb throw the ball all over the field, but they kept handing it off to this running back and he was killing it. He played defense as well and was all over the field. I said to myself, ‘I don’t know who this freakin’ kid is, but I gotta find out.’ After the [fall] season, he decided to play with us for national championship, and the rest is history.”

Farooq brought all his talent to Team Maryland but checked his ego at the door. As the team began to practice, it became evident that Farooq’s skillset would open the door for coach Byrd to use him in myriad ways.

“He came in as a running back, but he was willing to play wherever we asked,” Anderson said. “He had length and speed and an attacking mindset, but he didn’t limit himself by being concerned with where he played. We knew then that he could end up a 4- or 5-star at four different positions: running back, wide receiver, cornerback or safety.”

Farooq wasn’t alone. Team Maryland was armed with a treasure trove of talent. Many of the DMV’s top class-of-2021 recruits were members of that team. LSU commit Greg Penn (DeMatha), Virginia Tech commit Will Johnson (Ryken), Maryland commits Colby McDonald (St. John’s), Taizse Johnson (St. John’s) and Joe Bearns (St. Frances) and uncommitted Nate Kurisky (Gonzaga) to name a few. Team Maryland felt sure it had the stars and depth to not only compete with the other top states in the country but to beat them.

“My lord, that team was stacked from top-to-bottom,” Anderson said. “We had the electric Zion Larkins and Caleb Coombs (St. John’s) on the outside, Andre Porter (Ballou) at tight end, Colin Henrich (IMG) and Josh Williams (Gonzaga) on the line -- man, our skill players were explosive, our line was phenomenal, but our strongest position group was running back.”

Maryland’s backfield was comprised of Farooq and Terps commit Antwain Littleton (St. John’s), who had already garnered much fanfare. Littleton would later be named the eighth-grade national player of the year and was a national YouTube sensation. Littleton ran roughshod through the FBU competition, while Farooq provided the speed and spark that ultimately proved to be too much for opponents to deal with.

Team Maryland defeated Northern New Jersey and Maryland Metro handedly in the regional rounds, before knocking off Indiana to book its ticket to championship week in Naples, Fla. Convincing victories over Kansas City and Massachusetts set up a finals match-up with powerhouse Seattle. Farooq was playing his best ball under the brightest of lights. In doing so, he drew the attention of FBU vice president and All-American bowl selection committee recruiting coordinator Erik Richards.

“Team Maryland was one of the most complete teams I’d seen. They had a ton of talent, but Farooq was the X-factor,” Richards said. “Coming into the tournament, all the Team Maryland talk was about Antwain, Zion [Larkins], [Greg] Penn and Colin [Henrich], but Jalil made a name for himself in Naples. Four years later, I’m not at all surprised to see him selected for the [All-American] bowl.”

In the championship game, Farooq made plays on both sides of the ball. After Team Maryland fell behind early, he was the catalyst for its comeback. He had two long runs in the first half that set up Littleton scores, the second of which gave Maryland a 21-14 lead. Late in the second quarter, with Seattle driving to tie the game, Farooq intercepted a pass to squander Seattle’s momentum and secure Maryland’s halftime lead. In the second half, Farooq had a touchdown run of his own, cementing his game-changing performance and Team Maryland’s 41-14 victory. His ball-hawking ability paved the way for him to earn Defensive Player of the Game honors.

“I was on the sidelines and midway through the game, I had to go ask Byrd, ‘Who is 10?’” Richards said. “They lined him up all over the field. He could be in the backfield one play, in the slot running reverses the next, and at safety. He was a difference maker. When a kid performs like that on that big a stage and I have to ask a coach about him, they have it.”

Farooq’s performance left little doubt of what was in store for him at the next level. It wasn’t just that he could run, catch and defend, it was that he was elite at all three while maintaining the humility necessary to contribute in whatever manner his coaches deemed necessary.

“I’ll never take anything away from Antwain, he was the eighth-grade National Player of the Year. I won’t take away from Zion, he was amazing. Our quarterback C.J. [Henry] (Hodgson Vo-Tech) played lights out. But when you look at what Jalil was able to do on both sides of the ball, it was apparent then that he might end up being the best,” Anderson said.

Farooq’s next stop is Norman, Okla., where he will suit up for the Sooners and is expected to be next in line in what has become a fraternity of high-performing Oklahoma receivers. He’ll team up again with his former youth ball quarterback, Caleb Williams, and there will be potential for the two stars to set the college football universe ablaze. But one thing Farooq has proven time and again at every level he’s played is he will be ready, willing and capable to excel wherever head coach Lincoln Riley and staff ask him to play.