USA TODAY US Edition
Mock draft 2.0
Panel of experts forecasts first 10 selections, 3C Past haunts Jenkins,
All it takes is one team. Just one of the NFL’S 32 clubs has to believe in Janoris Jenkins when they convene for the draft starting April 26. A front office has to trust the cornerback is past his trouble — the charges from the barroom fight in 2009 and the marijuana busts last year that led to him being kicked off the Florida team.
Jenkins, 23, spent last season in major-college football exile, starring for Division II North Alabama.
Nobody has forgotten his talent, the way he shut down firstround draft picks A.J. Green and Julio Jones while at Florida, or the 4.4 speed he flashed at the NFL scouting combine in February.
“I made some mistakes,” Jenkins tells USA TODAY Sports. “I just want to show everybody that who I am on the field is who I am.” Line drawn
Oct. 1, 2010, Jenkins, then a junior, packed his bags for a chartered flight to Tuscaloosa, Ala., where the seventh-ranked Gators were to meet No. 1 Alabama the following night.
“The atmosphere was crazy,” Jenkins says of the crowd of 101,821. “You could barely hear the plays.”
After the Gators lost and failed to reclaim the national crown they won during Jenkins’ freshman season, he chose to return for a senior year rather than enter the NFL draft, though he was being compared to LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, who went fifth overall.
“I wanted to play one more year of college football and have no regrets,” he says.
Shortly after his January deci- sion, he was cited for marijuana possession twice in the span of three months. Those incidents, along with a previously failed drug test and the 2009 fight, prompted new coach Will Muschamp to dismiss Jenkins from the team.
Jenkins; his father, William; and his mentor, Sandy Cornelio, drove four hours from Gainesville to their hometown of Pahokee, Fla., and Jenkins was presented with three options: find another college, join the Army or drive a truck and work in the cornfields with his father.
The NFL’S supplemental draft, where he likely would have been an early-round selection, was not an option, his dad ordered.
“He was ready, football-wise,” says Cornelio, an Army recruiter who befriended Jenkins in high school. “But he would’ve never learned his lesson.”
Jenkins didn’t want to sit out the required year to transfer to a Division I school. So one year to the day after he prepped for Alabama, Jenkins and his new team caught an early-morning ride to meet another foe.
North Alabama took a 7½hour bus trip to South Arkansas in Magnolia, where Jenkins returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown in the Lions’ 42-14 victory before a crowd of 1,402.
“It was such a humbling experience,” Jenkins says.
Lions coach Terry Bowden knew Jenkins was up against inferior competition and saw how embarrassed he was to be in that position.
“He didn’t like people to introduce him as Janoris Jenkins, the former All-american at Florida,” says Bowden, who now coaches Akron. “It was very evident that it bothered him to have been a superstar and then have to pay some dues.”
The questions about Jenkins have rarely been about his play. “Once you make a mistake,” Bowden says, “everybody has the right to wonder whether you’re going to do it again.”
Does he still smoke marijuana? Are his four children — with three different mothers — a distraction? Does he hang out with hometown friends he calls bad influences? Says Jenkins: no, no and no. The contrition Jenkins has expressed is one of the most important steps in marketing himself to teams, says Ralph Cindrich, a player agent with four draft-eligible clients this month.
“They have to go in and be honest,” Cindrich says. “All the NFL front offices have to do is catch you in a lie and they scratch you off.”
Jenkins might not be a firstround pick despite having top-10 talent. But he says he’s less concerned about where he’s picked and more focused on growing and tending to his obligations.
“Judge me not for what I have done,” he says, “but for what I have become.”