Name: Eli Jenkins
College: Jacksonville State
NFL games played: 0
Games played for the Chargers: 0
Fun fact: Jenkins becomes the second player on the Chargers roster from D2 school Jacksonville State, joining DE/OLB Chris Landrum. However, he nearly finished his career elsewhere - his impressive performances at Jacksonville State led to interest from teams such as Auburn and Oregon as a potential graduate transfer.
It's hard to know what to make of Elijah Jenkins. He definitely has some arm talent, but put up poor passing numbers in college. In his senior season, he had a completion percentage of just 49%, including a game against Youngstown State where he went just 6/26. He put up much more impressive rushing numbers (3,796 for his career, the seventh most for a QB in FCS history) - but that was largely in part due to the offense he played in, where the majority of plays were simple read-options. Jenkins is athletic (he ran a 4.72 at his Pro Day), but he's not as athletic as his numbers would lead you to believe. He's a very raw passer, but not quite as raw as the numbers suggest.
At Jacksonville State, Jenkins became a 3x First Team All-Conference QB, as well as winning OVC Conference Offensive Player of the Year back to back - both of which were feats last accomplished by Tony Romo in 2002. That's not a bad benchmark.
Jenkins essentially re-wrote the record books during his time at Jacksonville State. His 11,448 total yards weren't only enough to put him first all time, but he was more than 3,760 yards ahead of second place. 42 passing TDs mean he's second in JSU history in that category, and likewise for his 47 rushing TDs. Despite all of this, however, he wasn't lucky enough to hear his name called in the NFL Draft, instead being picked up by the Chargers as an UDFA.
He'll be given a chance to fight for a place on the roster, but that's going to be an uphill battle. The Chargers clearly like Kellen Clemens as the backup to Philip Rivers, and there's no reason for the Chargers to keep 3 QBs on the active roster. Jenkins could win the backup spot with an excellent preseason, but the more realistic goal is beating out Mike Bercovici for a spot on the Chargers Practice Squad, where he can develop his passing abilities.
By all accounts, Jenkins had a very good relationship with his coaches at Jacksonville State, which will stand him in good stead in the NFL. Here he is bowling with his HC:
Jenkins' father, Reginald, is a pastor for Bride of Christ Temple in Birmingham, their hometown. According to this phenomenal article from the Anniston Star, it quickly became clear to his parents that Jenkins was a very talented child. He attended a gifted school twice a week and cried when he had to stay in normal classes. He was a star safety in youth league football, but his first love wasn't football, but soccer. However, parents complained that Jenkins was too big, too strong, and so Jenkins left soccer behind for the football field. It was probably a good decision.
Jenkins was extremely popular at school, winning almost anything he put his name forward for - despite a hatred of public speaking.
I do all these press conferences and interviews, but I still hate getting up in class and talk. #hateit— Elijah Jenkins (@ejenkins007) February 17, 2016
When Jenkins' father became concerned with the friends Eli was spending time with, he built a basketball court in their backyard with his own two hands, telling Eli that he could hang out with his friends, but only at their house where he could keep an eye on them (as well as church and organised sporting activities). Now that's parenting.
Jenkins didn't have much interest from teams as a QB, with coaches seeing him as an athlete that they could move around the field. He went along to Jacksonville State to try and help some of his friends get offers - but then JSU HC Jack Crowe turned to Jenkins and told him there was a spot for him on his team.
Suddenly, Eli Jenkins was a college QB. Four years down the line, it's clear that Jack Crowe made the right decision.
Jenkins was involved in a domestic violence incident in January 2016, being arrested after neighbors heard him arguing with a 22-year-old woman. The police report noted that Jenkins was "sober, unarmed, uninjured, and did not resist arrest." The charges were dropped against Jenkins after he met all the court ordered requirements, including counseling, and an internal review by Jacksonville State found that he hadn't violated their code of conduct.
Obviously, even being implicated in a domestic violence situation is murky, and there's no way of knowing what actually happened the night that Jenkins was arrested. However, as this was an isolated incident and no charges were ever brought against Jenkins, I'm (personally) giving him the benefit of the doubt in the situation.
It's unclear who the woman involved in the situation was, but it's possible that she was the mother of his child. Jenkins has a young son called Kaydon, and has described having his son as a 'wake up'. Balancing parenthood, a full time education and being the starting QB of a football team would be nigh on impossible, and so both his and his girlfriend's parents help out with the child - although that's a situation that's going to have to change now that Jenkins has moved over 2,000 miles across the country.
When asked how he'd deal with the issue of his child playing sports, Jenkins gave a very level headed and sensible response:
"I don’t think I want to start him playing football until he’s a little older,” Jenkins said when asked if Kaydon would be following in his father’s footsteps anytime soon. “I’m going to take a basketball, a soccer ball, and a football and put them in front him, and whichever one he picks up, that’s what we’ll focus on. And if he doesn’t want to play sports at all, that’s fine with me."
From the sounds of it, Kaydon has a pretty good dad. Give it time, and he might even have a dad who's an NFL QB. Eli's got a chance to live his childhood dream, and you'd better believe he's going to do everything he can to make it a reality - and collect the lucrative paycheck that comes with it.
After all, he's got two mouths to feed now.