PAINTSVILLE Paintsville’s No. 1, last name Phelps, has been called John Walker, John, Johnny, Johnny Walker and J.W. by coaches and on rosters.
“John Walker’s what most people call me,” Phelps said. “Coach Chirico likes to call me Johnny Walker.”
“What’d I call you wrong?” Tigers coach Joe Chirico, nearby and listening in, responded.
“No, I said you like calling me Johnny Walker,” Phelps clarified.
“J.W.,” Chirico added.
“Yeah, or J.W.,” Phelps said.
“What’s wrong with that?” Chirico asked.
Nothing, Phelps responded, but at any rate, making his own name may thus have been complicated both because of a multitude of monikers and because of his older brother’s legacy.
By any name, Phelps enters his senior year as a fourth-year starter at cornerback and Paintsville’s leading returning receiver.
Senior Jaylyn Allen has had little such trouble nailing down a name, but, like Phelps, he has become a pivotal part of Paintsville’s football fortunes after watching his older brother do the same.
Phelps and Allen have each grown from the role of younger sibling to a future Division I signee, to becoming leaders for the Tigers with their own play.
Phelps’ older brother, Kent, hoisted Paintsville to its second straight trip to the state semifinals in 2016 by rushing for 2,044 yards and 32 touchdowns, then signed with Wofford.
Allen’s big brother, Tyrese, led the Tigers back to the region final the next season. He ran for 882 yards and 17 touchdowns and was a force on the defensive front. He inked with West Virginia and transferred to Murray State this offseason.
Both were backfield threats to score any time they touched the ball, although they did it differently — Kent Phelps was a scatback; the bulky Tyrese Allen frequently toted opposing defenders on a free ride downfield.
Both were named All-Area Small School Player of the Year. Both left stout legacies for the rest of the Tigers — and their younger brothers — to strive toward.
“As a kid, it was always my dream to play college football, and I just think Kent set the standard for it to be easy to follow his footsteps,” Phelps said. “He was such a good player and a role model for me as a young guy, and he was just a good teammate and a good leader.”
Added Allen: “I just feel like (Tyrese) did so much for the school. I probably won’t fill his shoes, but I’m trying to do my own thing, be my own kind of person, because I’ve always been in the shadows.”
Phelps has established himself at corner. He made 40 solo tackles and 21 assisted stops last year and pilfered three picks, returning one for a touchdown. He also totaled 235 yards receiving and three TDs.
Allen played outside linebacker as a sophomore and moved to the defensive line last season, where he made 35 solo tackles and assisted on nine more. He is back at linebacker this year and “definitely” is more comfortable there, Allen said with a laugh.
“We were short on D-line last year,” he said. “I took one for the team, wanted to do what it took to win, so I moved down to D-line, but coming back now at linebacker I feel like I’ll be more in my zone.”
Allen will play middle linebacker, which is where Eastern Kentucky has him projected, he said. Allen has signed with the Colonels.
Phelps is interested in playing at Centre College, he said.
Both older brothers have encountered some difficulty at the next level. Kent Phelps has yet to see the field for the Terriers due to tearing the same labrum three times, John Walker said.
“It was tough for him at first, but God has a plan for everybody,” John Walker said. “That’s his plan, to stay down there, and if he wants to be a coach, the door is open for him.”
Dana Holgorsen’s staff recruited Tyrese Allen to West Virginia. Allen had to find a new home when Holgorsen left for Houston and new Mountaineers coach Neal Brown didn’t retain him. He moved on to the Racers, where he was promoted to the first string on Tuesday, Jaylyn said.
Both have still provided guidance for their younger brothers, who have taken aim at college careers of their own.
“I think that’s a pride thing between brothers,” Chirico said. “If you have a brother or sibling that you’re always competing against, that’s an ongoing grind in everything you’ve done your whole life. They definitely want to carry on that torch to continue playing sports after high school, and both of them have great opportunities to do that, and I’m excited for both of them.”
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