Bobby Pope

Jenkins keeps pushing along in football

Pete Jenkins has lived a football life. The longtime coach was born Aug. 27, 1941 in Macon and grew up in Hawkinsville and started playing football in about the sixth grade.

In high school, he was a center for legendary coach Bobby Gentry and was the only all-state player for the Red Devils on their 1958 team that lost to West Point in the Class C championship game played at Matthews Field in Thomaston. After graduating from Hawkinsville, Jenkins played two years at Gordon Military College (now Gordon College) in Barnesville for Fred Miller before finishing his college career at Western Carolina, where he played nose guard and linebacker. He reflected back on his days at Gordon saying how tough a coach Miller was.

Jenkins’ first coaching assignment in 1964 brought him back to Middle Georgia when he worked for one season at Warner Robins for head coach Milford Young. Then it was on to Baker in Columbus for two years as an assistant and then to Central in Phenix City, Alabama, as its head coach.

In 1968, he joined the college coaching ranks taking over as defensive coordinator at Troy State. The 1968 Troy team won the NAIA national championship.

Jenkins knows the SEC about as well as anyone as he has coached at LSU twice, Auburn, South Carolina, Mississippi State and Florida. He spent a total of 25 years coaching in the SEC.

He also has had stops at North Alabama, Southern Miss, Oklahoma State and Southern Cal, as well as a three-year stint on Andy Reid’s staff with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL. Jenkins has been on staffs that have won five SEC championships, and he has produced 21 All-SEC performers while 37 of his former players have been drafted by NFL teams.

His favorite coaching spot was at LSU, where he spent 14 years, and he still maintains a home in Baton Rouge today. He also has a home in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, and spends about half the year at each location. Jenkins wouldn’t single out the best player he ever coached, saying they were all different. He did mention Leonard Marshall and Henry Thomas, whom he coached at LSU and Dexter Manley, whom he worked with at Oklahoma State. Jenkins called Marshall the most talented player that he coached.

Even though the 75-year-old Jenkins has officially retired twice, he is still very much involved in the game of football. He serves as a consultant for the New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints and works with numerous collegiate coaching staffs. This year, he has worked with Alabama, Southern Cal, LSU and N.C. State. During 2015, he worked with nine different college teams and one professional team.

He also works with draft eligible collegiate players each winter and spring preparing them for the NFL Scouting Combine. For more than 30 years, he has conducted the offensive/defensive line camp at Nicholls State in Thibodaux, Louisiana, and back in June had 522 campers in attendance. The camp attracted an all time record high of 552 in June of 2015. The camp teaches players proper technique to play along the offensive and defensive line.

Jenkins says he hasn’t been back to Hawkinsville in many years since he no longer has family there. Pete Jenkins is a name you may not easily recognize, but this native Middle Georgian has had a profound impact on football.

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