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Jarvis Jenkins Stays True To His Roots

They say that home is where the heart it is.

For Washington Redskins defensive end Jarvis Jenkins, his status as an NFL athlete has grown throughout his career, but he hasn't forgotten about his roots.

Born and raised in Central, S.C., Jenkins grew up in a sports-centric family with one brother and a sister. His father, a former high school football player, and his mother, a former junior college basketball player, ran a tight household.

"It was a little bit rough. My parents we were real hard on me," Jenkins said. "My mom and dad, both working 12-hour shifts, it was a pretty good athletic family, [but a] strict household."

At the ripe age of 8 years old, Jenkins put on the shoulder pads for the first time. Playing for his father's Pop Warner team, a young Jenkins enjoyed the contact and aggression of this new-found sport.

"My mom, actually, wanted me to play football and my dad got me into it," Jenkins said. "I started liking it, had a little temper, and it fit quite well with me."

Entering high school, most players start off on the freshman or junior varsity squads. Jenkins, however, was fast-tracked to varsity and started all four years on D.W. Daniel High School's defensive line.

And just a season into his high school career, a college just minutes up the road came calling – although Jenkins admitted he was green to the whole recruiting process.

"Clemson came in and watched one of our O-lineman and actually offered him a scholarship," Jenkins recalled. "I was going against him in practice, so they offered me one, also. I didn't know nothing about scholarships and how they can take them away or give them to us, so I actually committed."

After totaling 79 tackles and four blocked kicks his senior year, Jenkins was awarded the South Carolina Coaches Association Upperstate AAA Lineman-of-the-Year honor, and was also selected to PrepStar's All-American Team. Stepping onto campus in 2007, Jenkins got the opportunity to contribute right away, totaling seven tackles – including a sack – in 10 games his freshman year.

Over the course of his four-year tenure with the Tigers, Jenkins played in 49 games and started 38 of them, including the last 35 of his college career.

Finishing with 166 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, five sacks and a school-record four blocked kicks, the two-time All-ACC player went to the Senior Bowl rated in the top-5 for defensive lineman in the 2011 NFL Draft.

When draft day arrived, Jenkins stayed home with his closest friends and family gathered at his aunt's house to watch the draft and wait for the call.

While they were still setting up for the party, Jenkins' phone rang. Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was on the other end of the line to greet Jenkins and congratulate him on being picked by the Redskins' 41st overall in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

"I didn't know I was going that early," Jenkins said. "I knew I was going that day, but didn't know it was that early and got drafted before the party got started, so it made things a little bit better."

Much like high school and college, Jenkins came into the pros expected to produce early. Just three weeks into the preseason of his rookie year, however, Jenkins suffered a setback when he endured a season-ending knee injury.

"It was kind of hard because you're talking about a guy, me in particular, who never had an injury," Jenkins said. "I just basically got to start over from scratch. I built myself up and it was basically a mind thing the whole time."

Returning in 2012, Jenkins picked up right where he left off. Playing in all 16 regular season games and making 14 starts, he registered 42 tackles, including five assisted tackles and a fumble recovery in Washington's first-round playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Thanks to the guidance he's received from veterans like Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen and former Redskins linebacker London Fletcher, Jenkins' role on the team continues to grow. He appeared in 12 games in 2013 and has taken the field in all nine of the Redskins' games this season. Off the field, Jenkins is an active member in the community, reading books to children and taking part in various community events with the Redskins such as Play 60.

While he enjoys getting out in the community in his home away from home, getting back to his roots and making a difference remains a priority.

"When I was growing up, we really didn't have a lot of guys coming back to do camps, coming back to go over technique and stuff like that," Jenkins said. "That's one of the things that me and one of my former teammates, [Houston Texans wide receiver] DeAndre Hopkins, we try to change that around where I'm from, bringing more people in to set a good example for the young people."

One way they're trying to do that is by setting up their own football camp in their hometown of Central, S.C. Expecting to host it next summer, Jenkins says it will be a three-day camp for youth football players, culminating in a celebrity basketball game to raise money for charity.

Jenkins may call Washington, D.C., his home away from home, but Central and Clemson are always on his mind, and he wants his impact on those communities to be felt for years to come.

"You always want to go back to where you tied at. I don't want to just be gone from Clemson forever," Jenkins said. "I always want to go back every year, keep my face around and motivate other guys to get to the level I'm at now. I want guys in 2030 and 2020 getting drafted by the Redskins and me being a part of it."


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