Sad day in Cyclone land


star staff


  It was on Aug. 27, 1965 at Brown-Childress Stadium that Hampton was hoping to pull off one of its biggest football wins in school history. The Bulldogs had battled their opposition to a scoreless halftime tie and seemed to have the momentum on their side.
  But with 3:21 remaining in the third quarter and their backs to the wall, the smallest among the orange and black proved to be the biggest among his fellow Cyclones. Tommy Jenkins, all 150 pounds, hauled in a 46-yard touchdown pass, which proved to be the difference in the game.
  Up until his death Wednesday morning, when the 56-year-old Jenkins succumbed to his lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer, he had made a difference in the lives of many Cyclones. Tommy was more than just a coach. He was a friend to all.
  Just a week before his death, Jenkins, the ex-EHS head football coach, was asking new head coach Eddie Pless the status on former football player Jake Jenkins. Jake saw budget woes and cuts in scholarship money shatter his opportunity to play football after signing scholarship papers at UVA Wise.
  When Pless informed him of what happened to his former player, tears streamed down coach Tommy's face. This was Tommy Jenkins the coach. More importantly, it was Tommy Jenkins the friend.
  "Coach Jenkins skipped two treatments last year to be with us," said Jake. "He loved us and we loved him. I will always be grateful for what he taught me both on and off the field."
  No one loved the orange and black more than Tommy. His countless years of dedication to Cyclone athletics speak volumes. Jenkins cared about his players and wanted to see them excel in life.
  He took the time to make tapes for Cyclones that wanted to play college sports. He was willing to make phone calls, send game films, write letters and do many other things if he thought it could help kids better themselves.
  Tommy was an example of the perfect Cyclone: undersized but overachieving. Cyclone football was a way of life for the Jenkins family. Brothers, Danny "Pert" and Wayne were standout players at Elizabethton. Their mother Edna, was their biggest fan.
  But the most important thing in Tommy's life was his daughter Juliana. Tommy never failed to mention his daughter and how proud he was of her. She was no doubt his pride and joy.
  For 22 years, Tommy roamed the sidelines at Elizabethton High, 18 as an assistant, the last four as head coach. He posted a winning season in each of his seasons as head coach, leading the Cyclones to conference championships in 2000 and 2003.
  Furthermore, Jenkins served his country in the United States Air Force during Vietnam.
  Football will be played in Elizabethton for years to come, but things won't be the same Friday night when 'Betsy takes the field against arch-rival Science Hill. Former player, coach and friend will no longer be seen below pacing the sidelines.
  But if one looks up, don't be surprised if you find Tommy looking down upon Cyclone football. It was an important part of his life.
  Tommy is slated to be inducted into the Elizabethton High School Sports Hall of Fame next month. This is the highest honor that a Cyclone can receive.
  God had different plans. He gave Tommy the greatest gift of all, eternity in heaven. Heaven's version of the hall of fame -- the highest honor to those that do good deeds and make him priority in their lives.
  Tommy Jenkins -- gone but never forgotten. Once a Cyclone, always a Cyclone.