By LARRY VAUGHT
Jalen Geiger insists he’s back “100 percent” from the season-ending knee injury he suffered against Florida last season and is even better than before.
“For myself, I have high expectations coming off my injury and want to show I am better than I was before the injury. I have a little chip on my shoulder,” said Geiger, a junior defensive back who played in 13 games in 2021 during his sophomore year and had 18 tackles and an interception return for a touchdown.
“It is tough when you are not out there playing. When you are out there with your guys playing the sport you love and you can’t it’s tough. But I had to step up and be a leader and coach the guys who stepped in for me. I knew I couldn’t get sad or get down on myself. I just had to be there for my brothers when they needed me.”
Defensive coordinator Brad White felt Geiger looked fresh going into preseason practice and is expecting big things out of him. So is Geiger’s dad, a retired military man.
“My dad expects a lot out of me really but all that does is make me play harder,” Geiger said.
His parents’ military service resulted in him attending six schools in 12 years. While that might seem like a hardship, Jalen Geiger found it to be a positive experience.
“I gained a lot of friends going to different schools. I have a lot of friends now. I tried to look at the positives and not the negatives of moving schools,” the UK defensive back said.
He lived in Korea from age 5 to 9 but the thing he remembers the most is that the “food was really good” all the time
”There was no tackle football, but he played flag football. “Flag football was too easy over there and I dominated that,” he said. “I also played basketball and it was very competitive.”
“I don’t want to brag but I think I was a pretty good basketball player growing up. Actually basketball was my first love and then I started to play football and got a passion for it.”
He also has a passion for community service and was named to the SEC Community Service Good Works Team. He’s been a mentor at a Lexington elementary school, read to first graders at another elementary school, volunteered to mentor children at the Citrus Bowl when Kentucky played in the bowl game, volunteered to pack food bats when UK played in the Belk Bowl and has helped God’s Pantry in Lexington.
“I love giving back. I love inspiring kids and knowing I can have an impact on them. It feels so good to me to do that,” Geiger said.
He’s also starting to pick up a few cooking recipes from his father, Tony, who loves tailgating at every UK game.
“He can throw it down. He loves cooking. His tailgates, he looks forward to that more than the games honestly. He loves them,” Geiger said. “He loves to cook and have fun, and play music. Any fan ought to go to my dad’s tailgate before games. He can cook anywhere, any place. As long as there is a stove and some pots and pans, he’s going to cook.
“Once he retired, he started picking up more cooking. He is trying to teach me a few recipes. I am learning but I am not too good.”
Geiger did learn some valuable lessons last season when he was injured and could only watch his teammates play.
“I learned not to take anything for granted. It showed me how fast things can get taken away from you,” Geiger said. “Every day I go out there and go full speed because you never know when it might be over and it could be your last play or game.”