Talk about high character.
Jenkins, who plans to graduate on May 13 with a degree in sports management, did not sleep at all last night after hearing his name called as San Francisco’s No. 30 overall selection of the 2012 NFL Draft.
The 6-foot, 192-pound Illinois wide receiver fielded a number of congratulatory texts, even from some of the wide receiver prospects he was drafted above.
But despite being sleep deprived, the 22-year-old was wide-awake on his flight from Jacksonville, Fla., to SFO. Jenkins said it was natural adrenaline keeping him up. The young receiver got an even bigger jolt when he stepped off his flight to see 49ers wide receiver coach John Morton there to pick him up.
Jenkins was pleased to be reunited with Morton after the two spent a lot of time watching Jenkins’ Illinois game film with Morton during his pre-draft visit to Santa Clara.
“I ran to his arms like a big kid,” Jenkins said with a smile. “I was honored to see him again. It’s a dream come true. A kid growing up in Jacksonville, Fla., from Terry Parker High School, now playing for San Francisco – that’s a dream. Words can’t really describe that feeling.”
Besides his laptop and school work, Jenkins packed a dark grey pin-striped suit for his introductory press conference in Santa Clara. San Francisco’s No. 30 overall selection was the man of the hour, or many hours, for that matter.
When the 2011 All-Big Ten first-team performer arrived at 49ers headquarters, Jenkins mingled with 49ers VIP Draft Contest winners and met the media where he answered questions about the fallout from the biggest day of his life.
But before he took questions, Jenkins was praised once more by head coach Jim Harbaugh, who posed for photos with Jenkins and his new No. 17 jersey along with general manager Trent Baalke.
“I just want to say I’m really happy for you and your family,” Harbaugh said looking in Jenkins’ direction.
“If you look at what this guy has done over the last four months, he played in two All-Star games, East-West, Senior Bowl, the combine, he’s done his own personal workout at Illinois where he probably had 8-10 teams,” Harbaugh continued, “He even had a workout at 7:30 on a Sunday morning for a team. He’s not afraid of competition. He’s not afraid to work. Great humility.”
Jenkins, who caught 167 passes for 2,432 yards and 19 touchdowns in four college seasons, said he did homework of a different variety prior to the press conference. Jenkins researched the 49ers current depth at wide receiver.
“I know the position,” said Jenkins, San Francisco’s 54th wideout drafted by the franchise since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger. “I’ll be around some great athletes and some great players. I’m just trying to compete.”
But before the third Illinois player ever drafted by the 49ers can begin working with teammates, Jenkins has some home maintenance to take care of back in Jacksonville.
Prior to hearing his name called at pick No. 30, Jenkins’ cousin, George Solomon, pranked the young receiver having him believe he was being picked earlier in the first-round. However, a phone call did come later in the first round. At the time, Jenkins had gone into the bathroom when Solomon was once again trying to convince Jenkins he was being drafted.
It was for real this time.
The 49ers were in fact on the phone looking to speak to Jenkins, who was skeptical about his cousin’s pleas for him to open the door. Jenkins wasn’t falling for another one of Solomon’s pranks. However, Jenkins’ cousin took matters into his own hands and broke the door down to give the phone to the Illinois wideout.
Jenkins promised his mother he would make the situation right by her.
“When I get back,” Jenkins said, “I’ll buy you a new door.”
Until he has to do some handy work around his mother’s home, Jenkins is trying to embrace the moment of entering the professional football ranks. The reality of joining a proud franchise like the San Francisco 49ers is not lost on him by any means either.
“I’m really proud to be here,” Jenkins said. “I’m humbled, I’m blessed. I’m honored to be here, ready to get to work.”
Jenkins doesn’t want to compare himself to any other receivers, but said he does look up to a lot of wideouts in the league. In the mean time, Jenkins will look to add weight before he competes against them on Sundays.
It shouldn’t be a problem. Jenkins said he can’t wait to get to work, in a uniform number, no less.
The former No. 8 in college has adopted No. 17 with the 49ers, and it’s for good reason.
“One plus seven is eight.”