Jenkins' Career Comes Full Circle
New Orleans Native Returns To Hometown For Final Collegiate Game
NEW ORLEANS – Senior corner Eric Jenkins is experiencing a homecoming this week in New Orleans, a place he holds close to his heart.
As the Mean Green prepare to take on Troy in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Saturday, Jenkins has an opportunity to share his city with his teammates and coaches. The first part he wants his teammates to experience is the cuisine.
“The first thing about New Orleans that comes to mind is the food,” Jenkins said. “There’s just so much good food out here. That combined with the wonderful culture make this an incredible city.”
While North Texas players and staff alike are enjoying the best the city has to offer throughout the week, it also allows Jenkins time to reflect on his upbringing in the Crescent City, one that was not easy on him or his family.
Jenkins grew up in the city’s seventh ward in the St. Bernard before moving to the east side of the city with his mother. Both places were rough environments to grow up, however, Jenkins credits those difficulties with helping shape him into the successful person he has become.
“I feel that going through some of the experiences I had in that environment, anything that happens, I can take that on and handle it,” Jenkins said. “I didn’t always have help, so it makes me feel like I know what to do when things get tough.”
When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, that complicated things further for Jenkins, who was displaced at the age of eight. Jenkins and his family moved to Fort Worth, where they stayed on-and-off for about four years. Some of his family still reside in the Fort Worth area.
“I thought it was just going to be like any other hurricane and that things would go back to normal,” Jenkins said of Katrina. “But when it hit, we realized that wasn’t the case. It messed up the whole city and we all had to move to different states and make new friends, go to new schools. All we knew was New Orleans, but for me, the transition was natural. Fort Worth immediately felt like home.”
Familiarity with the Fort Worth area for that period of time helped aid Jenkins in his decision to transfer to North Texas from Los Angeles Valley College. He was able to be somewhere he felt comfortable and where he was still surrounded by family.
Having the opportunity to return to his roots in New Orleans Saturday with those from his new home in Denton is something Jenkins claims he is blessed to do, one last time.
“It means a lot to play the last game of my college career in my hometown,” Jenkins said. “A lot of people don’t get that opportunity. To me it’s amazing and just a dream come true. I always wanted something like that.”
Jenkins’ family and friends have the chance to see him conclude his collegiate career in the iconic Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The corner has so many people interested in coming to the game to see him play, that he said he didn’t have enough tickets for everybody.
“Being in the Superdome felt unreal because a lot of people only dream of playing in there,” Jenkins said. “Everyone sees that the Saints play in the dome and to know we get to play there Saturday with a lot of people watching on tv is a wonderful feeling.”
Jenkins and the Mean Green kick off the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Saturday at noon CT live on ESPN and on the Mean Green Sports Network.