|On a scale of Ryan Mallett to 10, Janoris Jenkins measures well with media||02.26.12 at 1:56 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — While the workouts are watched closely by NFL teams, one of the biggest tests players can face at the scouting combine is their session with reporters.
Last year, the media eagerly awaited Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, a potential first-rounder whose name and character was being questioned over rumored drug use. To put it lightly, Mallett was overwhelmed, all over the place and took an attitude with each question asked. A session like Mallett’s is every troubled player’s worst nightmare, and it wouldn’t be too unfair to suggest that it was part of the reason he fell to the third round before the Patriots ended his slide.
So who was this year’s Ryan Mallett? The closest thing might be North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins. He could be the best corner in the NFL before long, but he’s got to prove he’s got his act together. Unlike Mallett’s rumored drug use, which was never confirmed by failed drug tests, Jenkins’ drug use was confirmed many times. All things considered, Jenkins handled the media a heck of a lot better than Mallett did.
A star corner at Florida, Jenkins failed a drug test and was arrested three times — two of which were for marijuana possession. The first arrest came in June of 2009 when someone grabbed his gold chain in a bar, so Jenkins punched him in the head. After his junior season, Jenkins was arrested twice in a three-month span for marijuana possession, and that was enough to boot him from the program. Now, he swears he’s done smoking.
“I’m done with it forever, man,” Jenkins said. “I can’t do it. I can’t let myself do it again.”
After being dismissed from Florida, Jenkins went to North Alabama, where he got thrown at so little that he had to work as a special-teamer just to keep himself busy. It was hard for Jenkins, who had previously given top receivers like Georgia’s A.J. Green fits. He went from being a star at the highest level to facing minimal competition. What was even worse was that North Alabama played their games on Thursdays, so Jenkins had his Saturdays free to watch Florida and think about what could have been.
“We didn’t really play on Saturdays, so my Saturdays, I’d watch Florida and watch some of my old teammates play,” he said. “It struck me and hit me as a kid. I was just like, ‘Man, I’m supposed to be there with those guys,’ just thinking about my past.”
Added Jenkins: “Coming from Florida, getting three or four pairs of cleats a week, gloves, to going to North Alabama and getting one pair of cleats and playing in front of 3,500 people. Being in The Swamp, playing in front of 95,000 is a big difference and learning experience.”
Now, Jenkins hopes to show NFL teams that he’s a changed man. A father of four children from three months to three years old, Jenkins knows he needs to be a better man, for others if not for himself.
“I think about my mom all the time, and my kids,” he said. “In order for me to be successful and them to have a nice life, I’ve got to put some of that behind me in order for my kids to get what they want. I can be a father to my kids and just be there for my mom.”
Assuming he shows teams that he’s got his head on straight, Jenkins should be drafted somewhere in the middle of the first round. As a reminder of just how legitimate the 5-foot-10, 193-pound corner is, consider this: After Jenkins said Green, the fourth-overall pick last year, was the toughest receiver he faced at Florida, a reporter asked what Green did to him to make it so tough.
“What did he do to me? I mean, he caught a post. I gave him one ball,” Jenkins said before noting that he picked off the first pass of the game thrown Green’s way in their 2010 meeting.
Jenkins has the skill, and he has the reputation as a shutdown corner against elite competition. It’s the other reputation he has to worry about, and at least in this reporter’s eyes, he handled that well Sunday.
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