In a hallway next to a lecture hall at Piscataway High School Saturday morning, a seven-year-old football player had New Orleans Saints’ free safety Malcolm Jenkins’ sole attention. He had some questions he wasn’t able to sneak in during a question and answer session Jenkins had given in the hall to a big group of campers, participants in the second annual Malcolm Jenkins Foundation camp.
Jenkins, a 2005 Piscataway High School graduate, couldn’t have been more patient, and was very thoughtful in giving the right numbers — how many touchdowns, how many interceptions, he has collected in his years in his four years in the NFL.
“Thank you Malcolm,’’ the youngster said on receiving the stats.
“Not a problem,’’ Jenkins replied.
Pro Players Giving Back
Football was at the core of the two-day camp at Piscataway High School, which was made up of 350 players from ages 7 to 18. There was a range of drills on the turf at Ciardi Field where Jenkins and high school teammate and now Jets defensive back Kyle Wilson played, where Piscataway grad and recent Detroit Lions’ signee Steven Miller played. Where Tampa Bay linebacker Jonathan Casillas, as a member of the New Brunswick High School Zebras, played two game scrimmages.Football was at the core of the two-day camp at Piscataway High School, which was made up of 350 players from ages 7 to 18. There was a range of drills on the turf at Ciardi Field where Jenkins and high school teammate and now Jets defensive back Kyle Wilson played, where Piscataway grad and recent Detroit Lions’ signee Steven Miller played. Where Tampa Bay linebacker Jonathan Casillas, as a member of the New Brunswick High School Zebras, played two game scrimmages.
Miller is a player the kids really could appreciate. No four-year school was interested in him when he came out of Piscataway, but he went to Nassau Community College for two years and on to Appalachian State where he ran for 1,368 yards on 239 carries (5.7 yards per carry) and 11 touchdowns last season. He caught 34 passes for 377 yards and four scores.
He returns to the Lions’ on July 22 with camp starting three days later in hopes of landing a spot as a starting kickoff and punt returner.
The kids learned that Jenkins and Miller were neighbors in an area of Piscataway that also included offensive tackle Anthony Davis (Rutgers) of the San Francisco 49ers and defensive back Dwayne Gratz (Connecticut), picked by Jacksonville in the third round of this year’s NFL Draft. Gratz lived directly across West Third Street from the Jenkins, while Miller lived nearby on Chestnut Street.
All of them graduated from Piscataway.
“I wanted to come back and support the youth and show them that there’s hope, no dream is too big for any kid, including myself,’’ said Miller, a free agent, who visited the Lions before the draft. “My road to success wasn’t easy, I had to go to junior college, so we’re trying to inspire the kids to keep doing things, to stay active.’’
He was among the football royalty that made up the staff, but campers also benefited from the attention of Malcolm’s parents Lee and Gwen, the president of the non-profit foundation.
Most of the Piscataway High staff was present including head coach Dan Higgins, who signaled the end of one drill to another with a air horn, Former Piscataway top assistant Larry Lester Sr, was on hand as were many former Chiefs’ players.
“What we are trying to do is obviously give these kids an experience that they wouldn’t usually have, it’s free, so anybody can come,’’ said Jenkins, whose wife Morrisa is expecting with the couple’s first child in December. “We brought out my colleagues in the NFL, some of my friends I played college ball with high school ball, high school coaches, who come out and donate their time, Nobody’s getting paid for it, we have a lot of support from the community.’’