Jenkins developing into sterling prospect on the line for Baldwin
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Sterling Jenkins is different.
It's not just the 6-foot-8, 300-pound frame he possesses or the numerous scholarship offers he's already received heading in to his junior season at Baldwin, but it's more his unmatched dedication to bettering himself along with humility rarely seen in such highly sought after high schoolers.
“I never really saw myself as better than anyone because I was big. I just thought that was a tool that would help me along the way,”Jenkins said.
“I'm not really a cocky or arrogant guy. I know that who works the hardest is who gets the prize. That's what I try to do.”
Jenkins is a four-star offensive lineman recruit, ranked 75th overall on ESPN's Junior 300 list, and is the No. 1 prospect in Pennsylvania.
Head coach Pete Wagner knows how hard Jenkins worked to be where he is, and thinks he still has a lot of room for improvement.
“He's a big kid; he's still growing into his body in a lot of aspects,” Wagner said.
Jenkins says the source of his dedication comes from his freshman year when he was brought up to play varsity only to be sent back down after it was clear he wasn't ready, physically or mentally.
“When they put me back on the freshman team it was a big setback for me,” Jenkins said. “That's what drove me a lot in the offseason and at the end of the season, to earn that spot again.”
Jenkins played basketball until last year when he decided to focus solely on football. His offseason training days started at 4:30 a.m. when he woke up to get ready for the 30-minute trek to the high school.
“I never like waking my parents for a ride so I'd just walk up to the school,” Jenkins explained.
Once there, it was straight into the weight room for a breakfast, complete with squats, hang cleans and bench press, before a day full of classes followed by practice.
“That's commitment that he has shown to improve,” Wagner said. “Obviously, he's a big kid, big frame, but what goes along with this is the work ethic and commitment to progress.
Wagner knows first-hand what playing on the offensive line at the highest level is like — he played at Morehead State his junior and senior seasons — and already is preparing Jenkins for what to expect.
“College, there is no plays off. That's what we're trying to stress to him on a daily basis,” Wagner said. “A frontside play is just as important as a backside play. You have to be full tilt, 100 percent every rep.”
Right now, Jenkins has 11 scholarship offers, including Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia, Michigan and Tennessee, has taken four official visits, and drawn interest from national powers Alabama and LSU, but he doesn't let all the college chatter deter his focus on the present goal.
“It's sort of hard because if you let it, it can take over. That's all you hear about is the people watching you and stuff,” Jenkins said. “If you really focus on what you can do and what you're supposed to do, and go out there and execute it's not as hard as you make it seem.”
Jenkins added: “I'm trying to focus more on me and what I do helping my team and not all these offers.”
Baldwin is trying to capture its first winning record since 2003, and Jenkins wants to be a key player in doing so.
On his “off days,” Jenkins watches film and does position-appropriate drills like foot and bag work. He also watches his diet, eliminating fast food and soda pop.
“His athleticism is very good. It's a matter of him learning the game and progress on a daily basis,” Wagner said. “There's a lot of things that go with offensive line play, starting with muscle memory.”
For now, though, Jenkins still has two more years to play in the highly competitive Quad Central Conference.
Wagner is pushing Jenkins in hopes to prepare him for a starting role as a freshman in college, wherever it may be.
“If we prepare him the way we prepare him now and he continues to take those steps, he'll be ready for the college game,” Wagner said.
Never the one to look for attention, Jenkins will continue to do what he's been doing, knowing that wherever he lands is just the beginning.
“I don't know what (college) is like,” Jenkins said. “I just know it'll be a lot harder than what it is now.”
Justin Criado is a freelance writer.
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