Taking the next step

By Wes Holtsclaw

   For three years, Jake Jenkins has been terrorizing defenders from his starting slot on the Elizabethton offensive line.
   He's ready to take his game to another level.
   The all-conference and honorable mention all-state lineman will suit up for the University of Virginia at Wise this fall, where he is expected to play an immediate role.
   "I'm just really excited, I love it," said the Elizabethton senior, who signed Thursday afternoon. "It gives me the opportunity to be a part of a family. I'll be a part of three families now, my family at home, the family here at the high school and the family at UVa."
   The Cavaliers are pleased to have him.
   Taking the field with a young squad, the unit had a 3-7 record last season, and should be a much-improved squad with more depth that includes Jenkins in the trenches.
   "We think he's going to be a great addition. We're real excited about him," said Cavalier coach Bruce Wasem. "I told Jake, and we didn't connect up until about a month ago, usually by this time of year (the players available are) usually a great kid but probably can't play football. But Jake's really an exception."
   A member of the National Honor Society and Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Elizabethton, Jake also excells in the classroom.
   "Then you look at that GPA and those test scores of his. He's the total package that you want: a quality kid, a quality citizen and a good football player, too. We're excited to have him," added the Wise coach.
   One of the things that sets Jake apart from many athletes is his work ethic. His dedication to the weightroom could pay off with immediate playing time in college.
   "All the phases, not just football itself; the lifting weights, summer workouts and the passing league, he loves all of that," Elizabethton's coach Tommy Jenkins said. "He is one of the more dedicated people that we've ever had.
   "I've taked to his father. He does a workout here, then he goes to the fitness center, then he goes home and has weights in the basement. It's obvious by his size and his strength. We look for him to do extremely well up there."
   Coach Wasem believes Jake will compete immediately with the lack of depth on the solid line given his work ethic.
   "We're going to have a pretty good offensive line, but we have very little depth," said Wasem. "I think he'll have a good shot of moving right in and he'll get some playing time this year, I'll be surprised if he doesn't."
   Jake is already motivated to contribute to the program, but compares it to entering high school.
   "I think I can, but I'm going to take it one game at a time. This is a major step for me," Jenkins said. "I'm just going to go out there and try my best. This is just like me coming to the high school as a freshman -- you've got to start all over again and do your best. Hopefully, they'll see what kind of player I am."
   "I'm working extremely hard right now and I know that Coach Wasem said I'll be working even harder when I get there. I've got to keep pushing myself and keep striving for excellence.
   From experence coaching him in the past, Elizabethton's coach Jenkins is confident Jake will adapt to the Wise system quickly.
   "He's got the size, speed and agility. He loves the game and he'll learn their system quickly. That won't be a problem for him. He's a real, real smart kid," he said.
   One thing's for sure, Jake will take many of the things he was taught in the Elizabethton program with him.
   "I can't describe the feeling I have for this place," he said. "Coach Jenkins and all of the coaches have done everything for me. I feel like they've helped raising me and stuff. I just love this family. It'll be sad to leave it, but I know I'll always be a part of it."
   The son of Tommy and Kathy Jenkins of Elizabethton credits his supportive family with their help in deciding the right place for his future.
   "Both of my parents loved it up there," Jake added. "I left it up to them, I told them what I liked and they decided to send me there. I'm glad they did."
   Jake has a brother, Thomas, and he is an active member in his youth group at Valley Forge Christian Church.
   Added the Elizabethton coach: "It's an outstanding day, not only for Jake and his family, but for us as a football family. Whenever we have a guy that can go on and play at the next level, it's a tremendous thing."