GUILBEAU: Jenkins testing NFL waters

Perhaps now, Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid realizes how well parts of four decades as a Southeastern Conference coach can prepare a coach for the NFL.

Pete Jenkins began his career in the SEC as a defensive line coach at Florida in 1979 before moving to LSU for 11 years. Then he went to Mississippi State and Auburn in the 1990s and finally back to LSU from 2000-02. At least we thought "finally."


Jenkins, 64, was relaxing at his retirement dream home in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., last February, enjoying life with his wife, Donna.


"Donna and I retired together," Jenkins said. "We go to the beach. We go to matinee movies. We work out together. It's great."


Little did Jenkins know, he would soon rather be in Philly.


Meanwhile last February, Reid called in veteran Eagles offensive line coach Juan Castillo and some other assistants to discuss whom he might hire to replace defensive line coach Tommy Brasher, who retired..


Reid threw a few names out at Castillo.


"Yeah, he's real good," Castillo said. "I know him. Pete Jenkins trained him real well."

Jenkins still kept his hand in football with his defensive line camps that he started in Thibodaux back in 1986 with former LSU assistant coaches and his former players, many of whom went on to the NFL.


Reid threw another name out at Castillo.


"Yeah, he's good," Castillo said. "Pete Jenkins trained him down at LSU. Good technique guy."


Jenkins had vowed never to leave retirement again. He had already changed a play at the line on Donna back in 2000 when he decided to leave his beach house and get back into coaching after a short layoff, returning to LSU under new head coach Nick Saban.


"I'm too old for this @#%*," Jenkins said like Danny Glover in "Lethal Weapon" while walking to his car near midnight on Saban time a season later. "I thought I worked hard."

After two years and his third SEC championship at LSU in 2001, he called it a career and returned to the beach. There was a second retirement party that looked more like an NFL defensive linemen reunion, though Jenkins had never worked a day in the NFL.


Reid threw another name at Castillo.


"I know him. He's good," Castillo said. "He trained at Pete Jenkins' camp, knows his stuff."


Reid had had enough. He stopped, looked around the room to some faces as confused as his, then looked back at Castillo and said, "Who in the hell is Pete Jenkins?"


Jenkins, Reid learned, has been putting defensive linemen in the NFL since he coached Dexter Manley at Oklahoma State in 1978. In all, Jenkins has put more than 30 linemen into the NFL, including 12 in 1992 alone, as well as current linemen from LSU Marcus Spears of Dallas, Kenderick Allen of Green Bay, and Marquise Hill and Jarvis Green of New England. Former NFL linemen include Leonard Marshall and Henry Thomas from LSU, Kevin Henry from Mississippi State, David Galloway from Florida and Leonardo Carson from Auburn. And former LSU lineman Bo Davis is now coaching with Miami under Saban.


Castillo never played for Jenkins, but he learned the defensive line craft under him at those camps when Castillo was a high school coach in Kingsville, Texas, from 1986-89.


"Where's he coaching," Reid asked.


"He's not," Castillo said. "He's retired. … A couple of times I think."

Reid had Castillo call this Jenkins guy.


The phone rang in Santa Rosa, and soon Jenkins was on a plane to Philadelphia – where there was no beach and 13 inches of snow.


"We had dinner in an Italian restaurant," Jenkins said. "We ate for about three hours."

Apparently, Reid had a lot of catching up to do.


"He didn't know me from a sack of rabbits," Jenkins said. "But every single one of the other coaches I talked to said Andy was the best guy to work for in the world. Everyone really respects him for the way he handled Terrell Owens."


It would not be another tour of duty as under Saban.


"It's a longer season, so there's more free time," Jenkins said.


By March, Jenkins had the job, an apartment in Philadelphia and a larger salary than he ever made in college football.


"Your voice sounds like you really like it," Donna said early on from Santa Rosa.

"I like it so much better than I even thought I would," Jenkins said. "I was never interested in the NFL."


The hours are good, too. Jenkins spent more time in Santa Rosa than Philadelphia during the off-season. He even returns home every Friday during the season. Last Saturday, Jenkins was back in New Orleans – his old recruiting ground for LSU from 1980 through 1990 under coaches Jerry Stovall, Bill Arnsparger and Mike Archer, and then later under Saban.


On Sunday, Jenkins was back coaching in the Superdome, the site of what he thought was his last game as a coach when the Tigers beat Illinois 47-34 in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2002. The NFC East-leading Eagles played the NFC South-leading Saints on Sunday.


The guy Reid did not know about apparently knows his stuff. The Eagles, who sacked Dallas quarterback Drew Bledsoe seven times last week in a 38-24 win, led the NFL in sacks going into the Saints game with 23, which is five more than second place Chicago with 18. They had 29 all of last season. They're on pace for 73 sacks, which would break the record of 72 held by the 1984 Chicago Bears.


Jenkins' line alone had 21 sacks on the season after it had just 21.5 all last season. The defensive ends have 15.5, which is one more than all of last season. Ex-Saint defensive end Darren Howard had three sacks in five games this year. He had 3.5 all last season for New Orleans.


"I thought I was a pretty good line coach until I met him," Castillo said. "What a coach! That's where it all started for me as far as being a teacher. Coach Jenkins is an excellent teacher, and fundamentals are so important for him."


Jenkins said he feels like a young coach again in his first job at Warner-Robbins High in Georgia in 1964.


"We are enjoying our new life and experiencing so many firsts," Jenkins said. "First combine, first mini-camp, first Monday Night Football, and on and on. I have a good group of guys to work with, have an outstanding group of coaches to coach with, and a great boss. There's a lot of different things in pro ball, but between the lines it's the same. Ball is ball."


And Jenkins isn't even the oldest coach on staff anymore.


"We've got three of us on defense in our 60s," he said. "I'm not the grandpa anymore. I feel like I'm one of the boys."




Glenn Guilbeau covers LSU and the Southeastern Conference for Gannett News Service. Read him at  or in the Shreveport Times, Monroe News-Star, Alexandria Daily Town Talk, Lafayette Advertiser, Opelousas Daily World and occasionally USA Today. You can contact him at

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