ATHENS - Jordan Jenkins finished my sentence: So you've been thinking about this game -
“Since I committed," he said. "I’ve been ready for this before I even left high school.”
Many Georgia players have been itching to play in such a meaningful game, but this SEC championship is a bit different for Jenkins: This time last year he thought he was going to Alabama. He wasn't officially committed, but was heavily leaning that way, based on a close relationship with defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, though not really head coach Nick Saban. (More on that later.)
“Bama was my No. 1 for pretty much my whole recruitment," Jenkins said after Monday's practice. "I’m just psyched. I know pretty much the whole recruiting class at Bama.”
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In fact Jenkins was playing Xbox online with Alabama freshman Geno Smith as recently as last week. They were even playing on the same team, before having to pull away to go to study hall.
“We were just congratulating each other and just seemed to be trying to hide that we’re ready to get after each other’s (butt) in the game next week,” Jenkins said.
(Yes, the word Jenkins used was not "butt." It started with an "a.")
Alabama was the first school to offer Jenkins, who went to Harris County High School, in Georgia but close to the Alabama border. Smart, the former Georgia player and coach, was the lead recruiter, and the two developed a close bond and still talk occasionally. Jenkins said they last spoke a couple weeks ago, the week of Alabama's loss to Texas A&M.
The bond with Saban wasn't as tight. Jenkins recalled the time Saban visited Harris County School.
“We had to keep it hush-hush, snuck him in the back doors. I walked right past coach Saban and shook coach Smart’s hand. I remember coach Saban putting his hand out and I didn’t see him because he was so short. I said: What’s up coach?”
Jenkins was glad to see Saban there, but he never really warmed to him.
“It was always a little awkward when I talked with coach Saban, because just that presence about him," he said.
That presence is also an aura built up by winning three BCS championships over the past decade, including two at Alabama over the past three years.
“I like to call it the Mark Ingram era," Jenkins said, referring to the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner. "They had the whole era from when I got into high school. That’s pretty much when everybody started being bandwagon Alabama fans. They’d hop on it and hop off. Just picturing yourself holding up the crystal ball after that year, it seemed like Bama was that team that everybody loved and that was gonna win it all.”