janoris-jenkins-klemko-story

Handle With Kid Gloves

Janoris Jenkins’ rookie year was everything the Rams could have asked for. Now they’re doing what they can to keep their young star cornerback on the right track

By
Robert Klemko
· More from Robert·

A few days after Rams rookie Janoris Jenkins and a teammate were instructed to run the bleacher stairs at Candlestick Park last November, their punishment for violating team rules, former NFL great Aeneas Williams and Jenkins had a man-to-man summit. There was Jenkins, 24, chiseled, tattooed, bursting with scattershot energy; and Williams, then 44, a soft-spoken pastor and the father of four.

Williams was part of a small army of mentors that had been assembled by the Rams and Jenkins’ family to help the rookie cornerback find the straight and narrow. Jenkins had been kicked off Florida’s football team as a junior in 2011 following three arrests in two years, including involvement in a bar fight, and spent his senior season at Division II North Alabama. The move cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars. Deemed by many to be a first-round talent, he fell to the second round and was taken by St. Louis with 39th overall pick. The slip-up in November, reported later as a curfew violation, ended in him watching the Rams tie the 49ers from the bench.

“I got the sense from Janoris that he was taking it very seriously,” says Williams, a four-time All-Pro defensive back who played 14 seasons with the Cardinals and Rams from 1991 to 2004. “He was very disappointed that he had let the team down. He was contrite about what he had done.”

But contrition doesn’t always mean immediate change. Eight months later, and it doesn’t sound like the 24-year-old has ditched the training wheels. “When you take on the youngest team in the league, there’s positives because you’re young, got a lot of energy and a lot of talent,” says St. Louis general manager Les Snead. “The negative is it takes a little more energy to develop and raise them. A lot of toddlers running around, a lot of changing diapers.”

Jenkins certainly played like a first-rounder in 2012. He had four interceptions, three returned for touchdowns, and also scored on a fumble recovery. In the history of the NFL only Devin Hester and Ken Houston have scored more non-offensive touchdowns in a single season. The Rams named Jenkins their rookie of the year.

Still, he has been slow to shed the reputation for immaturity that he earned at Florida. Those in his support circle would have preferred that he spend more of his first full offseason in St. Louis, but instead Jenkins stayed predominantly in Orlando with the mother of one of his four children. He did, however, satisfy the team’s offseason program. They would have liked for him to return to St. Louis in shape for June OTAs. Instead, second-year coach Jeff Fisher says Jenkins was underweight. “He wasn’t where we wanted him to be,” Fisher said during those workouts. “There was a significant fluctuation in his weight. He got smaller. But he’s back to where he should be and he’s had a really good week.”

Jenkins said he needed downtime after a marathon year. In the space of 12 months he went from Division II to the Senior Bowl to the NFL Combine to rookie camp to the regular season, in which he started 14 games. “I had a great summer,” he says. “I spent most of it with my kids, just relaxing. Everything’s been coming fast for the last year. I didn’t come back [to St. Louis] until I had to be back. I’ve never had much time with my kids, so I had the opportunity and I took advantage of it.”

He also apparently took advantage of some of the spoils of his new wealth, posting a selfie on Instagram, for instance, with a gold chain around his neck and gold jewelry over his teeth and captioned “Strip club ready.” Social media has added a level of scrutiny that didn’t exist in Williams’ day, and it does Jenkins no favors. Says Williams: “If Janoris was playing in a time where there wasn’t all this stuff … there’s just so much more exposure, with everything being watched.”

janoris-jenkins-klemko-instagraminline
Janoris Jenkins likes to mug for the camera on his Instagram feed. (Janoris Jenkins’ Instagram)

Jenkins’ self-documentation on Twitter and Instagram includes pretty much everything under the sun: from community service to late-night road trips to pictures in which he appears to lick the soles of new-bought Jordans, and to posing with those ubiquitous gold chains. It was jewelry that led to Jenkins’ May 2009 arrest for resisting arrest in Florida after a fight—he told police that assailants tried to steal his chains. He now says such squabbles are behind him.

“I’ve got to take advantage of being a pro,” he says. “I’ve just got to be a man and make the right decisions. I don’t feel no pressure. I feel like they’ve got the right people around me. I understand what’s at risk.”

Snead and Fisher hope to make a living on several mercurial investments not unlike Jenkins. They grabbed former Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree, who was arrested for DUI a few days before the combine, at the end of the first round this year. The Rams were the only team to take a flier on troubled wideout Titus Young after his release by the Lions, but realized he was too big a handful when, on the heels of a successful interview with the team, he blew up on an airport security official over his missing ID.

Veteran Cortland Finnegan, who played six seasons for Fisher in Tennessee, rejoined his old coach in St. Louis last year, signing a five-year, $50 million contract to play opposite Jenkins and, now 29, tutor him. Finnegan’s a powderkeg on the field, but Jenkins looks up to him. “He’s a great leader,” Jenkins says. “You try to (pick the brain of a veteran) like Cortland because he understands the game. He’s funny too.”

In a morbid way, maybe. Finnegan told USA TODAY Sports’ Mike Garafolo last year that his dream retirement scenario would be a “double concussion.”

“That’s Cortland,” Jenkins says. “He’s going to give you something laugh about.”

For good reason, the Rams aren’t relying on Finnegan to mold Jenkins on his own. “We do have some vets,” Snead says. “Plus I tell everybody, not only are the coaches touching the player, but the training staff, community relations, strength and conditioning staff, the nutritionist…”

In the end, there’s only so much Snead, Fisher, Williams and the rest of the staff can do to police Jenkins. He’s got to decide if it’s worth it to return to Orlando or his hometown of Pahokee, a.k.a., “Muck City,” where more than 30% of families are below the poverty level. The Rams can’t force him to live in St. Louis, tell him who to hang out with or how to spend his Friday nights.

I wouldn’t call it ‘worry.’ Anytime you draft a player, you shouldn’t be worried. We’re not rolling the dice. It’s like investing in companies; I’m concerned, and we have a plan.” – Les Snead

Snead is ever cognizant of the bottom line, and the Rams have alternately taken a mentoring approach with Jenkins and reminded him he’s a business investment. In the offseason, Jenkins said Snead would text him once a week, telling him he’s glad to have him aboard and checking on his off-field life.

“I wouldn’t call it ‘worry,’ ” Snead says. “Anytime you draft a player, you shouldn’t be worried. We’re not rolling the dice. It’s like investing in companies; I’m concerned, and we have a plan.”

Part of that plan was to supplement the tutelage provided by longtime mentor Sandy Cornelio with strong personalities such as Williams, who mentors another young player on the team, but lately, with Jenkins, not so much.

“We initially had about four meetings, but there hasn’t been much contact lately,” Williams said last month. “We just were not able to connect, for whatever reason … the scheduling. It’s really based on the willingness of the player.”

There’s a balance to be struck between the risk associated with employing a red-flag player and what that player can offer on the field. Jenkins can make the occasional innocuous misstep tolerable if he can improve his play the way Fisher expects him to. He says Jenkins was playing on instinct in 2012, and he’ll be working with a better knowledge of both the Rams’ defensive scheme and the opponents’ tendencies in 2013.

“He’s a smart kid, sits in the front of the room and understands football,” Fisher says. “Last year he was playing corner reacting. This year he’s playing corner and he’s going to know. He’s going to expand and anticipate and be that much more dangerous.”

Off the field, Snead’s trying to build a support network for Jenkins. On the field, his expectations from his corner in Year 2 are simple. “What’d he have, four touchdowns last year?” he quips. “I want to see eight.”

44 comments
DannyCarrao
DannyCarrao

I just hope that gold teeth jewelry is removable - because at a certain age he's going to look in the mirror and be like: "Oh crap, did I really do that?!"  Lol

All joking aside, it's clear that a lot of pro football players grew up in tough situations, many without positive role models in the home.  When your role models are entertainers talking about "ho's and bitches" and actors portraying the "gangsta" life as something to aspire to, well, let's face it, this is a big reason why many don't make it. 

Let's put aside the hate and realize that this next generation of young men will eventually have an impact on all of us, because as they go, society goes.  If we can do things to help get them straightened out, so they in turn can be positive impacts on others, don't we owe it to everyone to do that?!  Football aside, let's all root for Jenkins - all everyone like him - to get his head on straight and be a productive member of society and a good father to his kids.  That's better for everyone, including you and me.

jake8080
jake8080

Hey brain dead  (JimKirkwood1) You need to go back to school for you must have flunked history St Louis is a great city and I'm proud to say we hold the record in the National league for World Series wins we have the arch and many great places to eat it is obvious you never have been here Go RAMS!!!

tj90036
tj90036

why can't this lousy web site INSTALL A PRINT BUTTON????

J.M. H
J.M. H

Hopefully he learns from another former Gator and stays out of trouble

DestinBanks1
DestinBanks1

He has to understand the world he lives in. In his mind those pics mean nothing and in my mind they mean nothing but to many others they will assume that he is nothing more than a gun toting thug and they will slander his name and question his character.

llovette99
llovette99

That's sad. A grown man with 4 kids, no less, needs his boss to call every week. The NFL has some serious issues, let alone Jenkins. How isn't he embarrased by this story and those pictures? I hope he never makes it and I hope his children never see these pics. He is an embarrasment. Apparently he's not smart enough to realize the opportunity he was given, even after getting banished to North Alabama. Guys like this deserve to fail.

JimKirkwood1
JimKirkwood1

Who in their right mind would want to spend their off season in St Louis?? Maybe if you're from Detroit.

Mike26
Mike26

I could care less if this idiot succeeds or not.  Handholding supposedly grown men (and women in some "civilian" cases) is a complete joke and in the end won't work when these idiots need 24/7/365 attention because they are absolutely too stupid to know how to make a living on their own - after their career (including babysitting) is over.

cdawg
cdawg

I may have rooted against him on the field in college and now in the pros, but I hope he succeeds in becoming responsible for himself and his family. He doesn't seem like the danger to himself and others that Titus Young and some other troubled players are.

badfish
badfish

@tj90036 Grandpa, is that you?!  There is a print button on the left side of the page you idiot.

Mike26
Mike26

@DestinBanks1 You are correct.  His NFL career will be very short compared to the rest of his living years - the time when he'll need actual professional employment without the babysitting.  Photos like these - and much much tamer - cost job applicants positions all over this country.  He's a moron for not thinking beyond the next 5 minutes of his life and how many retweets he's going to get from posting them.

JPSmall
JPSmall

@llovette99 First of all he's not you, so (hypothetically) asking him why he isn't embarrassed by something you don't like AND he is doing intentionally  isn't just stupid, it's the height of condescension. Second, he's a football player in his second year who had a phenomenal first year while playing on instinct. If he figures it out, he'll be a top 3 CB in the NFL. That's the story: can do what it takes to succeed with all the choices in front of him. You're getting caught up in the emotions his images elicit, and missing what is a quintessential human case story. Are you going to pretend that you've made every single correct decision in your life? Well sit back and see how it unfolds. Go look up schadenfreude in the dicktionary; I think you'll see your picture.

llovette99
llovette99

Detroit is a great town and so's St. Louis. I think the point is that this guy doesn't realize the opportunities he's been given.

eddie767
eddie767

@Mike26 So what u r saying is,when u were 23 someone gave you a $4+ mil.contract and you were not acting a little foolish. PLEASE,stop hating!! At least he isn't on anyones police blotter,he's taking care of and spending time with his kids. Give him a break,the Rams did and they have more invested in him than you.

doghockey
doghockey

@Mike26 Seems like you may be a bit envious of this guy, his job, and his paycheck.

MatthewVogt
MatthewVogt

@Mike26 He's not even 25 yet so is pretty much still a kid who needs a little more guidance. Not everyone is as lucky as you were to turn out to be such a shining example of manhood.

CoreyHardin
CoreyHardin

@Mike26 You sanctimonious blow hard.  You don't know this young man's history and I'm sure you were a finished product at 24. 

DestinBanks1
DestinBanks1

@Mike26 @DestinBanks1 These pics would def cost a job applicant a position i agree with that. But none of these pics could cost a person their job unless they were a school teacher or something. 

Mike26
Mike26

@JPSmall @llovette99 JP:  His career could be over next week.  Then what?  Will the Rams continue to babysit him for life?

Thought so.  Get off your high horse about things.

Mike26
Mike26

@eddie767 @Mike26 This guy was a troublemaker/lawbreaker long before age 23.  Stop making excuses.

DestinBanks1
DestinBanks1

@doghockey @Mike26 i agree with you. i dont see anything in this article that says the man is a thug or a career crimminal but yet he is being called a dirtbag by someone who does not even know him personally lol

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@MatthewVogt@Mike26 

There are lots of people at his age who are living responsible lives, and what's more, who have never gotten into trouble in their younger years.

Stop making excuses for dirtbags.

Mike26
Mike26

@CoreyHardin @Mike26 I was never arrested before age 24 or since (so far!).  Then again, respect for authority, self-motivation and work ethic are traits I've had for a long time and I didn't even get spoon-fed on a daily basis either to develop these traits.

Mike26
Mike26

@DestinBanks1 @Mike26 So white-collar folks would be able to tweet/Facebook these things and keep/get hired for their jobs?  Of course not - it goes far beyond just the "moral: jobs of teaching, nursing, etc.

DestinBanks1
DestinBanks1

@Mike26 @DestinBanks1 @doghockey See kobe has actually set the lakers up to be bums once he retires though due to his own selfishness. He ran howard out of there and anyone who thinks melo or lebron will play with him is a fool.. I rather deal with a knuckle head than a jerk because a jerk is always gonna be a jerk (kobe). A knuckle head has time to mature or change.  i still havent heard what it is he did in college that he got in trouble for i know it was something that dropped him into the second cause they were saying he had top ten talent


Mike26
Mike26

@DestinBanks1 @Mike26 @doghockey Jordan and Bryant's talents far outweighed the amount of babysitting required - and for the most part ended after a couple of years (well, except for Jordan's "retirement" to baseball to clean up his gambling issues - issues that affected himself and didn't destroy the league or its image).  Jenkins has NEVER been successful without babysitting - and will NEVER have the commitment, dedication or DRIVE to stay out of trouble on his own.


I do appreciate our conversation Destin - two people with two different takes without the JH-style namecalling of a "Theo".

DestinBanks1
DestinBanks1

@Mike26 @DestinBanks1 @doghockey Most nfl and nba players do have to be babysat. Kobe bryant has to have his hand held and back rubbed to remain happy. Michael jordan the biggest ass in the world and punched steve kerr in the face but he was coddled and all that was swept under the rug.  I know he got in trouble in college but  i dont recall for what. He smoked weed or something i think

Mike26
Mike26

@DestinBanks1 @doghockey @Mike26 He's been in trouble for years.  How hard is that to understand?  Now he's has to be babysat at age 24 just to show up for work?

Yup, he's a real winner with all that "talent" - talent that won't mean a thing if he's injured beyond repair today, tomorrow or next week.  Then what?  He'll be returned to the streets by the Rams and be in a blotter within a year.

Mike26
Mike26

@MatthewVogt @MidwestGolfFan @Mike26 Matt, thanks for continuing to make excuses for this guy.  Sanctimonious?  Maybe, but slobbering over the talent of someone playing a game is a waste of time and in the long run won't help the "kid" at all.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@MatthewVogt @MidwestGolfFan @Mike26  

The Rams are certainly entitled to spend their money as they please.

What I question is employing someone who needs this kind of special treatment, and people who so harshly condemn any questions about an individual who must be closely watched to ensure good citizenship.

MatthewVogt
MatthewVogt

@MidwestGolfFan @MatthewVogt @Mike26 He's entitled to all the extra consideration the Rams are willing to pay for since it's their money.  Since he got out of school what has he gotten away with?  He ran the stairs for being late for a meeting last season and was held out of a game. Which crime did he commit that you want to hold him to the fire for?  Did I miss something in the article? 

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@MatthewVogt @MidwestGolfFan @Mike26  

I don't recall holding myself up as a role model.  Since you see me as one, thank you very much and I am honored.

As for this football player...because he's got lots of talent, he's entitled to lots of extra consideration?  In other words, he gets to get away with things normal people wouldn't, because he's really good at football?  Nonsense.

It doesn't work that way.

MatthewVogt
MatthewVogt

@MidwestGolfFan @MatthewVogt @Mike26 Their are lots of people who haven't, so what is your point?  Very few people on this planet have this kid's talent so if The Rams want to invest their money in providing additional mentors and guidance to ensure this kid doesn't go off the rails that is a bad thing?  I am guessing you have lived life as a saint without ever getting any help or consideration for anything. 

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