Oversized Jenkins a good fit in NY- Boston Globe
Oversized Jenkins is a good fit in New York
Despite his 360 pounds, the Jets' Kris Jenkins (sacking Bills QB Trent Edwards) possesses stunning agility and quickness.
By Adam Kilgore
November 13, 2008
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Kris Jenkins has always preferred city life. He grew up outside Detroit and attended the University of Maryland, just outside Washington. He plans on dedicating himself to philanthropy and cooking once his football career concludes. He enjoys the theater and jazz clubs. He promotes education through art.
Jenkins never truly loved playing defensive tackle for the Carolina Panthers, living in a place unable to quench his tastes. He played in Charlotte for his first seven seasons, and his struggles often outweighed his happiness despite success on the field.
"Charlotte was supposed to be the city," Jenkins. "But it was country."
Jenkins, then, is where he belongs, playing in his first season for the New York Jets. His comfort with the city and enhanced maturity have helped him play the best football of his career and become one of the most dominating players in the NFL.
At 6 feet 4 inches and 360 pounds, Jenkins is immovable clogging runs and stunningly agile rushing quarterbacks. The Patriots will try to limit his impact tonight at Gillette Stadium, something no opponent has successfully accomplished this season.
Jenkins is playing at as high a level "as anyone in the league," Jets linebacker David Bowens said. "His penetration reminds me of Pat Williams in Minnesota, [Tennessee's Albert] Haynesworth. When you look at big guys like that who force negative plays, he's a guy like that."
Jenkins nearly frittered away his talent last season. His weight ballooned to almost 400 pounds. He drank frequently. His behavior threatened his career and convinced the Panthers to trade him to the Jets for third- and fifth-round draft picks.
Jenkins recognized an opportunity. He stopped hanging out in clubs. He controlled his weight and devoted himself to his three children and family.
"Staying out of the streets and taking care of my family," Jenkins said. "That's it."
Jenkins finished last season with the Panthers weighing 392 pounds. He arrived at training camp at 360 pounds and collected a $500,000 bonus for meeting workout requirements. The Jets also inserted a weight clause in his contract: The team weighs him 10 times each season, and he earns $25,000 if he makes his proper weight.
"I think that it is a second start," Jenkins said. "I'm starting to feel like I have my life together. A lot of things have changed since when I first started. When I first started playing, rookie year, I was young and immature. Now this is Year 8, and I get a fresh beginning and it's a chance to make a different kind of impact.
"I really like the area. I like the team. It just feels welcoming. I really got a second chance, so I'm going to take advantage of it."
Jenkins rapidly asserted himself as a leader, his vibrant personality pervading the locker room. Yesterday, a teammate asked him if he wanted to join a group delivery order of sandwiches. Jenkins was brushing his teeth at his locker.
"You know me," he said. "I'm going to eat my lentils."
"He's crazy," Jets safety Kerry Rhodes said. "He can be quiet one minute, the next minute he's loud. Next minute, he's a big brother. Next minute, I'm his big brother. You never know with him. He's one of those personalities."
Jenkins's personality, though, is not restricted to jokes. He has addressed the Jets and told them their talent rivals that of the Panthers team with which he advanced to Super Bowl XXXVIII. "If they did it, we can, too," Jenkins announced.
After the Jets beat the Kansas City Chiefs Oct. 26, Rhodes drove with Jenkins from his house in New Jersey to Ricardo Steak House in New York. Jenkins talked the entire time, sharing lessons from his life, barely allowing Rhodes a word.
"He can talk you to death," Rhodes said. "And it may come out quirky or may not be what you think, but at the end of the day it has a positive message."
Most of all, his teammates respect Jenkins's performance. His presence, Bowens said, forces opponents to run the ball outside. Linebackers playing behind him run free "because he's almost guaranteed a double team, every time," Bowens said. His size helps him stuff two gaps, and his quickness lets him burst around and through blockers and into the backfield.
Focused on his season and still settling into a temporary home, Jenkins has yet to fully experience New York. After the season, he plans on checking out the city's restaurant scene. He'll continue his work with Life Pieces to Masterpieces, a nonprofit program that teaches inner-city kids about life using art as a framework. He may see a Broadway show.
Jenkins will have time to choose. He said he is looking into buying a house in the area, ready to call his new team - his new city - home.
"I love it," Jenkins said. "I think that we might be out here for quite a while."
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Jenkins A Good Fit In New York Boston Globe
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