Lee Jenkins has a hard time saying no.
His son, Malcolm, was a preeminent high school football player at Piscataway (N.J.) High School, about 70 miles north of Philadelphia. An All-State and All-America selection, Jenkins led his team to three straight state championships.
Jenkins had determined that he wanted to continue his education and football career at Ohio State.
Malcolm called three of the schools with no issues whatsoever. Things changed when he contacted Rutgers, which is situated only 15 minutes from the Jenkins’ home.
Greg Schiano was just hired as the head coach with Rutgers and pleaded with Malcolm to re-visit the team’s facility and give the school just one more chance. Jenkins surrendered the phone over to his father, left the room and figured that would be the end of it. Malcolm Jenkins would have to make one more trip to Rutgers before officially committing to Ohio State.
Lee Jenkins’ inability to disappoint others worked in Malcolm’s favor as well. Lee and Gwendolyn Jenkins raised Malcolm and his two siblings on Rock Avenue in Piscataway and provided a structure that other kids in the neighborhood didn’t have.
“My house was the only one with a steady father there,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “Some people had different situations, but I think I was the only one whose father was married to his mom and these are their kids. Obviously, that’s why a lot of people gravitated toward us. My dad, he didn’t mind stepping into that role. There were father figures around, but I think we were the only one who had that steady foundation.”
Lee Jenkins works as a computer consultant, and while raising his kids his days would begin early as he drove his wife to-and-from work each day since she battles anxiety and is unable to operate a vehicle. The long days and the pressure of helping provide for three kids may have wore on Lee Jenkins, but one would never know by being around him.
“He was loving. He loved to lecture a lot,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “To be honest, as a kid I didn’t really understand the perspective my dad had until I grew up. I can reflect back on talks we had since he’s tried to teach me and I finally get it. I didn’t realize how hard he was actually working because we didn’t really have too many needs growing up that we could see as kids. I really didn’t know how much he was working, how hard he was working and the kind of stress that probably put on him.”
Malcolm Jenkins’ father was a leader by example and instilled that in his son. When Jenkins finally went to Ohio State, he was a team captain and All-America selection for a team that reached the BCS National Championship Game. Off the field, Jenkins volunteered by reading to kids or serving as a mentor to high school students while earning his bachelor’s degree in communications. When Jenkins arrived in New Orleans with the Saints in 2009, he wanted to use his platform to help children. In 2010, The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation was born.
“My mom and I really wanted to focus our efforts into one main goal instead of doing something sporadic and bring some kind of cohesion to it,” said Jenkins, who won a Super Bowl and was a two-time captain in New Orleans. “We started a foundation and really wanted to focus it on kids, particularly underprivileged kids in underserved communities. We started in New Orleans and had the vision to eventually branch out to Ohio, where I played, and then Jersey, where I’m from obviously.”
After five years with the Saints, he was the Eagles’ number one target in free agency because of the aforementioned leadership as well as his versatility. Jenkins started his NFL career as a cornerback, but was moved to safety to fill a void left by injury in 2010. In the second year of the Eagles’ defense coordinated by Bill Davis, the team is in search of more varied looks to stymie opposing offenses. Jenkins has the ability to drop down in the box or play centerfield. Jenkins’ experience as a cornerback allows him to play in the slot if the offensive alignment calls for it.
“He’s added that true leadership to our back end that we needed, we missed,” said linebacker
The addition of Jenkins stabilizes a position group that has been in transition. With Jenkins in the fold, safety
“He’s been a great leader in the locker room and in the meeting rooms. He’s got a really, really, really good football knowledge,” said head coach Chip Kelly. “I think he’s done a great job with our staff, asking a lot of interesting questions. He’s fit in better than I think anybody on our staff thought he was going to fit in. He’s a football player and he adds a lot of stability to that back end.”
Jenkins’ father had a hard time saying no to others. When it comes to lending a helping hand, Malcolm is a mirror image of his father.
“I think it really stems from my father, just seeing him give back to the kids in our neighborhood - signing kids up to play Pop Warner, taking us all to practice. He was the one dad in the neighborhood who taught us all to play football, catch and all of that other stuff,” Jenkins said. “Naturally, now that I’ve become a man and have a family of my own, giving back is just something that’s kind of been ingrained in me and I just do it naturally. I feel like being blessed so much I have a responsibility to give back and lift those who are coming behind me. It feels good.”