Senior Ole Miss Defensive Tackle Brandon Jenkins reached a crossroads last spring.
After a respectable junior year on the playing field, where he seemed to come into his own after a couple of years of trying to figure everything out, Brandon's academics slipped to a "dangerous" level.
Basically, he was in a "now or never" situation, he says, with his grades and his football eligibility hinged on his efforts.
"A lot of people had already written me off," said Brandon. "Here and back home in Memphis, I think some people just expected me to quit. I talked with Coach O and he didn't pull any punches. He said here's what it is now go get it done.
"I took a hard look at myself and got tough on myself. I had to look in the mirror hard, move forward and get it done in the classroom. It was a lot of work, but it's all coming together and I'm on target."
In the meantime, Brandon has kept up with what he needed to do in the realm of football as well.
"I've been here all summer and have worked hard. I was in pretty good shape when summer began and I haven't missed a beat. In the drills and everything, i feel great," he explained, "but I am anxious to put the pads back on again. I haven't had any contact since the Mississippi State game, to speak of."
Jenkins weighs 295 pounds right now and "feels good."
"I feel good. I think my weight is good and I know my movement is good. I feel quicker and very confident," Jenkins added. "It's like my academics - I just have to go get it, do what I know I am capable of doing.
"This is my last season. I have more sense of urgency and spunk now. If I want to go to the next level, this is it. I know I can, it's just a matter of applying myself and doing it. If I don't get after it, this could be my last time to put on pads, my last season in football, and that's not what I want. Knowing this is it has been an awakening for me, to this point."
Brandon is hard on himself when it comes to last season's performance.
"I did OK. I learned how to take on blocks and I made a few plays here and there, but I know I am capable of a lot more. Last year was a good experience for me, but I have to make more plays and play with more energy this year," he assessed. "It's like my school work - let's do it.
"I have to be more consistent. I have to stay away from injuries and out of the training room. I have to be ready the whole time. I have to put everything I have into the game at all times - in the games, at practice and during workouts. That's my goal."
Jenkins has high hopes for the defensive line in 2007.
"We've got the same people back we had last year with a year of experience under our belts. If we are all healthy, we will have more depth and will be able to finish games better. We should be fresh and ready to go," he ended. "We can't use fatigue as an excuse, but there were times last year when we just ran out of gas because we were limited in our substitutions with the injuries we had. This year, if we stay healthy, that won't be the case. We have some depth now and that excites all of us.
"We were a few plays short last year. We don't want that to happen again. We work too hard for that to happen twice."
Brandon Jenkins has it all. Size, speed, experience and also a new weapon in his arsenal - a newfound "spunk," as he calls it, to motivate him for his last go-round as a Rebel.
If he maintains that attitude, he could be one of the surprise players of 2007.
Brandon Jenkins update -
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