💌 Love Philly? Sign up for the free Billy Penn email newsletter to get everything you need to know about Philadelphia, every day.
Eagles backup quarterback Jalen Hurts made his first career touchdown pass Sunday against the Packers, lifting fans’ sagging spirits with his 32-yard loft on 4th and 18. About a minute later, wide receiver Jalen Reagor, also a rookie, pulled off a 73-yard punt return to score the team’s second TD.
Philadelphia would go on to lose to Green Bay, but not before the Jalen and Jalen show ignited Birds fans’ dormant hopes for this dismal season.
Add in safety Jalen Mills, and Philly tops the league in at least one stat this year: the most Jalens. A full third of current NFL players named “Jalen” are on the Eagles, according to Pro Football Reference.
Combined with other spellings, like Jaylen, Jaylon and Jaylinn, there are at least 15 football players sharing the moniker.
The name is popular in other sports, too. A Wall Street Journal report from 2017 found men who played college basketball and college football were 9x and 5x more likely to be named Jalen than the average college-aged man.
No coincidence, the WSJ concludes. We apparently have Jalen Rose to thank.
A former NBA player and current ESPN commentator, Rose gained fame as a member of the talented “Fab Five” of college basketball. Part of the University of Michigan’s 1991 recruiting class, Rose and his Wolverine teammates are credited with bringing style and swagger to the sport, and helping turn the NCAA tournament into a national obsession.
Checking in with a bunch of baby name sites, you can see “Jalen” skyrocketing from rarely used to a chart-topper — right around the time Rose was making headlines on the basketball court.
Rose’s mom told the Wall Street Journal she came up with the name on the spot, a portmanteau of Rose’s dad James and his uncle Leonard.
She hit on something good. At its peak in 2000, Jalen was the 106th most popular baby name in the U.S. (the most popular name that year was Jacob). It has since fallen, and was knocked out of the Social Security Administration’s top 200 baby names of the decade for the 2010s.
About 2,100 Americans, mostly males, were named Jalen as of 2014, according to the U.K. genealogy site Forebears.
All three Eagles Jalens are from Texas. That’s not entirely surprising, since that state is home to the second highest number of Jalens in the country, per Forebears. The Birds would just have to draft or trade for one more Jalen to match the most popular name on the team, Jason.
As for the Jalens’ future, it’s looking up. There’s plenty of controversy, but analysts predict Hurts might become a permanent replacement for Carson Wentz, who’s had a disappointing season. And Reagor’s outlook on fantasy football sites, which was sagging, has gotten a lift.
For the team as a whole, the immediate future is less bright.