Beyond His Years
By Steve Stone for MSNsportsNET.com
August 20, 2008
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Known as one of West Virginia University’s most heralded recruits, offensive lineman Josh Jenkins is prepared to undergo a tremendous learning experience in his freshman campaign.
Jenkins comes to Morgantown as the top prospect from the state, having dominated during his days at tradition-rich Parkersburg High School. The Parkersburg resident and USA Today First Team All-American became the first Mountain State player to participate in the famous U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, and amassed 158 pancake blocks during his prep career -- an accolade that could make any offensive lineman smile.
In his Division I football pursuit, Jenkins gave much of his attention to WVU and Big Ten powerhouse Ohio State. What was even more awe-inspiring for him was how much attention he was receiving as both fans and the media eagerly awaited him to make his choice.
“It was pretty humbling for me,” Jenkins admitted. “You just got to keep your head on straight and not take everything to the head. Of course you are going to get a lot of articles written on you -- how good you are, how bad you are doing, a lot of naysayers, a lot of people that will support you.”
It seems that Jenkins was getting a dose of Public Relations 101 as he continued to accept the interest he was receiving while maintaining tunnel-vision focus. The 6-foot-5-inch, 305-pound standout possesses the mindset that as long as he puts in the maximum amount of effort on and off the field, he will have a much easier time refuting any naysayers that come along the way.
“You have to look at it like this: Just do what you got to do and do what you do best,” Jenkins stated. “You don’t have time to worry about the people that doubt you. You have to stay humble and just keep working hard to prove everyone wrong.”
The heavy talent that permeates WVU’s offensive line has raised questions about whether Jenkins could earn significant playing time or get handed a redshirt in his first season. Although he shapes up to be the future of the front five, the eye-opening adjustments that have to be made from high school to college on the offensive line can make it difficult for any high-profile recruit.
Instead of scoffing at his first-year fate, Jenkins takes the optimistic approach and believes that either outcome gives him the chance to become a better football player. He has plenty of confidence in his ability to perform now, but also feels a first-year learning experience can benefit him both mentally and physically.
“I’m not saying I’m not going to play,” Jenkins said. “I hope to get the opportunity to play a little bit as a freshman. At the end of camp, if I’m not ready to play I don’t have to. That’s great because I can get another year in the weight room and then I get to learn a lot more of the offense.”
One transition Jenkins has made is practicing with high-caliber, Division I football teammates. The physical nature of each practice is something he has adjusted to, but admits that the pounding can sometimes make for a difficult recovery.
“The practices are long. It wears on your body. In high schoos we had two-a-days but it was nothing like this,” Jenkins admitted. “The pace of practice was not as fast. It starts wearing on your body and the physical contact is bigger because the people are bigger. You’ve got to learn to get in the treatment room afterwards.”
Spoken like a player well beyond his years, Jenkins is a poised, intelligent athlete who is eager to learn from his fellow teammates on the offensive line. Although the players that sit in front of him on the depth chart weren’t as highly-recruited coming in, they have put forth a tremendous workload that Jenkins is eager to follow.
Admittedly shy and soft-spoken at times, the three-time Class 3A first team all-state selection is hesitant to speak up because he feels such a duty is left for the veterans. But whenever his teammates offer any form of advice, Jenkins gladly accepts.
“Personally, I kind of keep to myself more than other people,” Jenkins admitted. “I see other guys and they look out for each other real well. I try to keep to myself because I’m a freshman.
“But if you’re having problems on the field the upperclassmen will come to you and ask if you’re alright. The biggest thing when I got here was when the freshmen would have trouble with their steps and (Greg) Isdaner, (Ryan) Stancheck, and (Mike) Dent would come up to us and tell us you got to do this and be real clam with us. It’s nice to have those people around.”
Some of that camaraderie began during summer workouts at Milan Puskar Stadium. The opportunity to bond with several teammates and push each other during several strength-building exercises is one of the critical phases in building a national championship contender.
Besides acclimating himself with the team, Jenkins also saw summer workouts as a chance to gain an edge individually. His strength and conditioning began to improve immediately as he molded himself into tip-top form.
“It was big because back in Parkersburg when I was there in the first part of the summer I was gaining weight and that’s not where I needed to be. When I came here I looked at a picture of me and it’s like I had a whole new face on me,” Jenkins said.
“It was crazy. But it was great because I got used to the workouts and the running. The first day of practice wasn’t that bad because I could do wind sprints or just keep up with everyone when it came to running because college running is totally different than high school.”
It seems that WVU will be the right fit for Jenkins, who was originally born in College Station, Texas, but moved to the Mountain state at a young age. Although he envisioned himself playing football in a sunny area with an excess of beaches, he is happy to enter the rugged terrain of Morgantown and take in the football-crazed atmosphere that it encompasses.
“This is definitely a big-time university to play football,” Jenkins said. “It’s not always about the big-time college football, it’s just your preference -- whether you want to be in the heat or stay here.”
Now Jenkins comes into the season facing the major question of whether he will contribute immediately or wait patiently for a shot at WVU’s offensive line rotation.
But there aren’t any uncertainties on what Mountaineer football has in its near future: an extraordinary athlete with a world of potential.
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