Jelani Jenkins, 6-foot-1, 210 pounds
ESPN 150 Watch List linebacker
Good Counsel (Wheaton, Md.)
It's impressive enough when an athlete garners Gatorade Player of the Year honors as a high school junior. It's even more extraordinary, however, when the recipient complements his outstanding gridiron skills with exceptional work in the classroom.
ESPN 150 Watch List outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins (Wheaton, Md./Good Counsel) may have boasted 1,014 total yards as a running back and seven tackles per game as a hard hitting defender, but it is his distinguished 3.9 GPA as a national scholar-athlete at Good Counsel High School in Maryland that is perhaps most remarkable.
"I really take academics just as serious as football," Jenkins stated adamantly.
One of the top outside linebacker prospects in the country, Jenkins has not simply rested on his physical prowess -- a supreme blend of size, speed and power -- to open doors in life. The chiseled 6-foot-1, 210-pounder does not take his natural gifts and abilities for granted, and Jenkins seeks fulfillment in life for everything he was blessed with.
"I just try to work hard and give 100 percent at everything I do, including school," Jenkins said. "I believe everyone is born with a plan in life, and everything works out right if you try your best."
A winning attitude is apparent when talking to Jenkins, and the 16-year old phenom practices what he preaches. Faced with the daunting challenge of balancing school work, athletics and now a rigorous recruiting schedule, Jenkins recently said he attributes his academic success to a focus on time management, prioritizing his work and simply working hard to do whatever is necessary to achieve success.
Aside from diligently hitting the books late into the night, the instinctive linebacker frequently crams in some homework in the short window of time between the end of school and the start of practice. Jenkins has also been known to have a book or two in his hand while being taped or receiving treatment in the training room.
The high school junior acknowledges that these habits and morals were instilled by his family. He was quick to praise and thank them for their assistance in his success.
"I really have a good group of supporters in my family," Jenkins said. "My mom [Stephanie] and brother are a great help with my schoolwork, and my father [Maurice] has pretty much taken the recruiting process out of my hands. I give people my dad's phone number when they call, and he handles most of it for me so I can concentrate on school."
It should come as no surprise that the Good Counsel team MVP and GPA leader is aspiring to find a college that places a strong emphasis on both football and academics.
"I am wide open on schools right now but am looking for a college with a good football program, great academics and a high athlete graduation rate," Jenkins said.
The two-way standout plans this summer to visit schools unofficially and start dwindling down the schools he is considering. His list of suitors includes more than 27 scholarship offers from prominent programs like Penn State, Boston College, Stanford, Southern California and Florida.
Until then, the humble football star who doubles as an elite sprinter on the track team, said he is concentrating on his AP literature class, which he acknowledges is quite challenging but also very stimulating and informative.
Jenkins will bring elite football skills and above all great character to a future college football roster; he is a kid who truly gets the big picture in life and what it truly means to be a student-athlete.
Jenkins' Scouts Inc. Evaluation
Jenkins is a tough, rangy, fast-twitched linebacker prospect who plays fast and physical on every snap. Does not possess a whole lot of bulk right now on is tall, leaner frame, but this kid is long and should fill out very well in college while retaining his natural explosiveness in space.
Packs the punch of a much bigger linebacker with his ability to generate great speed in the short area. Very strong tackler who wraps up low and drives through with great power from his hips and lower body. Great jump to the football and is a very reactive athlete. Will step down quickly filling vertically and deliver great power to the point of attack. Just as effective pursuing laterally and sifting through the wash. Gets over the trash fluidly while retaining sharp pursuit angles to the ball carrier; productive hitting the run seams inside-out to make plays on or behind the line of scrimmage. Good change-of-direction quickness to make up for false steps. Flashes great range and a high motor chasing sideline-to-sideline. First step quickness and good acceleration make him a great blitzer off the edge.
Shows good run instincts and a nose for the football, coverage awareness is a strength as well. However, we would like to see him get more consistent depth in his drop to level off and utilize his good closing speed. Needs to add bulk and increase upper-body strength to improve his shedding ability; can struggle disengaging the block of uncovered linemen. With that said, most of Jenkins' weaker areas can be coached up on the field or in the weight room. His ability to make plays in space and stack the run between the tackles are highly-coveted as an outside linebacker prospect.
Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school level. Tucker has served as a recruiting coordinator for two nationally ranked Division II colleges. Most recently, he was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator for Merrimack College, which advanced to the Sweet 16 in the 2006 NCAA Division II playoffs.