I saw it happen first-hand on Friday at Piscataway High School at the first Malcolm Jenkins Foundation Football Camp.
I was totally blown away at what I saw.
Jenkins is a former Piscataway football and track star who plays for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.
Jenkins and a host of NFL players, along with Piscataway coaches, players and former players, were out in the brutal, 93-degree heat teaching a group of 200 kids how to run, block and tackle.
They gave six hours of their time on Friday and will give six more hours on Saturday with 150 more kids. All for free!
The campers didn’t have to pay anything and the NFL players flew in from all over the country with all expenses coming out of their pocket.
All because Malcolm Jenkins asked them.
“All he has to do is ask and I’m there,” said James Lauranitis, a feared linebacker with the St. Louis Rams and former teammate of Jenkins at Ohio State. “Giving back is what it’s all about, especially for the benefit of kids.”
Among the NFL players on hand were Jenkins, Kyle Wilson (Jets) and Anthony Davis (49’ers), who all played together on the 2004 undefeated team at Piscataway and who were all first-round draft picks in the NFL. The three were re-united for the first time since their high school days.
Also on hand from the NFL were Lauranitis, Isa Abdul-Qudus (Saints) and Roman Harper (Saints). The list is expected to grow on Saturday with the presence of Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals).
The former Piscataway players on hand included Marvin Booker, Rob Rose, Matt Voliva, Myles Savage, Vincent Wilson and Steven Miller.
“I have a huge passion for giving back,” said Jenkins.
The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation was formed in 2010 by Piscataway resident Gwendolyn Jenkins, Malcolm’s mother.
“In New Orleans, Malcolm does so much charity work, he gives so many speeches and is involved in so many community things, but it was done under the radar and a lot of it is was not organized,” said Gwendolyn. “I know Malcolm is a person who loves to make a difference in people’s lives, so I approached him about a foundation. I said ‘why not have your name attached to it, this way we can do the organizing and come up with ideas.’ ”
Thus, the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation was born with Gwendolyn Jenkins serving as President and Malcolm Jenkins as Chairman.
“The foundation has become a year-round job,” said Gwendolyn. “But it’s worth it when you can make a difference in a person’s life.”
The community work of Jenkins was recognized by the Saints, who chose him as the 2011 New Orleans Saints Player of the Year.
While I was simply in awe of Jenkins and all these men donating their time and putting forth so much energy all for the benefit of kids in severe heat, I also had so much fun reminiscing with Jenkins, Wilson and Davis, whom I interviewed numerous times in high school.
Davis lit up when I told him how I remembered him on the varsity basketball team as a sophomore and how I recalled his little spin move in the lane with a soft jumper to go with it. Then when I asked him why he left the team as a junior after scoring 14 points in the season opener against J.P. Stevens, he said “To focus on football.” What a good move.
And I was very excited when, searching for Jenkins, he found me and came up to say hello and welcome me to his camp. I was surprised he remembered me because after all, the last time I saw Malcolm, I was interviewing him at the New Jersey Meet of Champions track meet in 2005.
When I recalled the story of Piscataway beating Sayreville in 2004 when Jenkins hauled in a bomb from Rob Rose in the closing minute, Jenkins, a Super Bowl champ, said, “Of course I remember that game. I pop in highlight films from high school once in a while because those days were special. I brag about me, Kyle and A.D. (Davis) all playing for the same high school. And, at least once a week, I remind my teammate, Isa (Adbul-Qudus), who played at Union, how we whooped them in high school … twice.”
When Rose heard me tell the story about the Sayreville game in ’04, he said, “Malcolm made me look good. All I had to do was throw it up and he tracked it down with all that speed.”
“I’m blown away by this day,” said Piscataway assistant coach A.J. Cook, who has been with the program for a long, long time. “It’s just great to see these kids coming back like this and giving something back. I’m in awe.”
Said head coach Dan Higgins, who has won five sectional titles in nine years, “I can’t even put this into words what this means to me. This feeling I have right now is as good as any of the championships we won. These are special kids who don’t act like special kids. They are just Piscataway Chiefs.” by John Haley/For The Star-Ledger