When A.J. Jenkins first made the switch from baseball to football, he wanted to be a running back. He idolized one of the greatest ever to play the position and he even wore the same number.
"I always used to love Barry Sanders ... running back was my first position before I changed to receiver," Jenkins said. "I played running back until middle school and ran around with number 20 on."
As he began to grow taller and lankier, a position switch became necessary. It took a little bit of trial and error, but eventually he found his place on the field.
"I started to get too tall and too long," Jenkins said. "I tried corner and it didn't work too good because I couldn't back pedal fast enough. I tried receiver and here I am now."
Here and now means that as a junior he was good enough to have 35 receptions for 558 yards and eight touchdowns in a wing-T, multiple option offense. Here and now means he already has scholarship offers to play football from Florida, Illinois, and Maryland. That list will most certainly grow as numerous big time programs have been requesting his game film. Lately, Parker Coach Greg Stanton has been busy fielding calls about his star receiver.
What they like about Jenkins is that he's so team-oriented. He does all the little things that make the difference in winning and losing and he's a player that knows his role.
"I run good routes and get off of jams and I have good hands," he said. "They say I play like Dwayne Jarrett. The first thing I have to do is catch it and hold on it … then I need to make a play for my team."
When he's not trying to improve his game on the football field, he's busy in his other sport. He's run a 10.75 100 meters in track, numbers that figure to get better this spring.
He is already aware that athletic talent plus good grades equal better opportunities when it comes time to make school choices. He's got a 3.2 GPA and has a qualifying test score based on NCAA standards. Jenkins is contemplating taking his last two core courses in the fall and finishing school early to enroll by the spring semester at the college he chooses. He is very business-like in his approach to almost everything.
"I am very humble man ... I don't trash talk," Jenkins said. "If someone else is talking trash, I think they are just trying to get in my head, and it just doesn't work."
The spring and summer will be preparation time for his senior football season and a time for Jenkins to get to know some of the colleges that are recruiting him. He is wide open right now and really listening to everyone. Florida, Miami, USC, LSU, Georgia, Tennessee, and Clemson are a few that he rattled off interest in at this early stage.
He already attended a junior day at the University of Florida. It was a learning experience where he got to see the athletic and academic side of the school. He also met up with players like Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin while on campus.
"I went to the University of Florida for junior day," Jenkins said. "It went very well, but I don't want to make my decision so quick. They have a really nice atmosphere, nice facilities, and a nice campus. It was like me and 20 other recruits."
A self-described Miami fan growing up, Jenkins says that he has no allegiance to any school right now and will make the decision that is best for him. He also says that he doesn't think distance will play much of a factor in his recruitment.
"I never flew on an airplane before," he said. "I don't wan to go too far, but if my heart says go to Southern California, then I will have to go to Southern California."
The journey is just beginning for A.J. Jenkins. His star is shining bright and will shine brighter as the journey continues. Along that journey we will continue to hear more and more about him and we will probably continue to be impressed.