The Pittsburgh Baldwin 6-foot-8, 305-pound four-star offensive tackle pledged to be a Nittany Lion Tuesday night on KDKA-TV. By doing so, he became the Lions' ninth four-star commit (now 10 with the addition of New Jersey quarterback Brandon Wimbush later Tuesday) and first offensive tackle.
Jenkins spoke with FightOnState.com following his announcement. A transcript is below.
FOS: Why Penn State?
Sterling Jenkins: It dated back to when we came to the Michigan [four-overtime] game and how excited I was before and after. Me and my dad, we were lost, and going all over the place, and we went to the game and it was tailgating everywhere; it was crazy. We were walking back in the dark, stumbling and stuff. It was an amazing experience, and it was even then that I started thinking Penn State might be the place. Looking back, that was the starting point for all of this to happen.
FOS: You mentioned your dad, and you've mentioned your step mom and grandmother before. How big of a role did they play in your decision?
SJ: My grandma was telling about Penn State before I was offered by Penn State. I think she was telling me about Penn State like, three years ago. Her brother [Chappie Hill] played there, back in the 50's and he loved Penn State. She did too; she wanted to go there but she couldn't so she always told me to go to Penn State. I never really listened to her until recently when I was like ‘ya know what, that might be a realistic thing.' She's been trying to get a job up there and my brother's trying to go to Penn State and my family loves Penn State. Even from the beginning, whenever my dad went there [with Jenkins on an unofficial visit], he just loved the feel up there before I even did essentially.
FOS: In terms of what Coach [Herb] Hand and Coach [James] Franklin have to offer you, what stood out to you about them?
SJ: I feel like they're just genuinely honest with what they say to me and everything they believe in. And where they want to take the program, I believe in it. It didn't really seem like a big thing for me to stay in state but it became really apparent whenever I just got, like, 600 [Twitter] followers and they're all like ‘welcome from the family' and they're all from Pennsylvania and New Jersey; it really became apparent how important it was to stay in state. I really realize it now and I'm really happy I realized that.
FOS: How long did it take you to get to know Coach Hand and what do you feel like he has to offer you in the future?
SJ: He offered me twice actually; he offered me at Vanderbilt and he offered me, along with Coach Terry [Smith] at Temple, he offered me too. So, Coach Hand, I already knew him. So when I first met him he was like ‘you know what, I like you. You're a bright eyed guy.' I didn't know what that meant because it was apparently a southern term. He told me and then I said OK he's a cool guy. And then I really didn't have interest in Vanderbilt but I knew he was a nice guy and cool to talk to. And then I heard he was going up to Penn State and I was like "ok," and really what happened was, I went up, and I believe the first time I went up and met all the staff was [a February] Junior Day. I went up there and I was walking with [Hand] like the whole time and he was just telling me his life, and what he plans for me, and his hope for the future and stuff. I thought it was really cool that he spent the whole day. It was me and two other linemen and that connection just built really fast.
FOS: Penn State has gotten players out of the WPIAL but it has rarely gotten the top player out of the WPIAL and hasn't gotten the top player out of Pennsylvania since 2009. What does it mean to you to have Coach Smith there to get you out of the WPIAL, and what does it mean to represent that league in general?
SJ: I think it's really important to me because a lot of guys … I remember back at a Rivals camp guys were like ‘oh, I got an offer from Penn State' and someone would be like ‘oh, that doesn't mean anything' and everyone would start laughing and stuff. Penn State really wasn't on the map for recruits and I think starting, at least at home, I can do my best to make sure that it's a real thing and that what's going on is very special and that I hope a lot of guys take advantage of that if they have the opportunity to. I think it is really good for me to show that in the WPIAL.
FOS: This is a very tight knit class. What kind of role do you want to play with that? How much recruiting do you want to do?
SJ: I know a lot of guys like Adam McLean, Kamonte Carter and Juwan Johnson. I know how they recruit, and I want to kind of counterbalance that. What they do is like ‘hey commit, commit' and whenever it comes to Grant Newsome, I know that he's a thinker and he cares about academics [and] he cares about all these other things. So with him, and other people I think are really taking this seriously, I want to make sure they know that there is someone out there who is not trying to push them to Penn State. I'm not saying that's bad, but I'm trying to get them to see this is a welcoming place where people truly want you. Because that's how it was for me; they said no matter what happens, you're going to be good for them. That's what my coach said; he said wherever you go they're going to get a great player and student and that meant a lot to me. I feel like if I can pass that on to any of the recruits that would be a meaningful way to recruit.
FOS: How important is it to be full steam ahead on your senior season now and be done with recruiting?
SJ: It's very important, because last year, I had gotten All-State, I had all these rankings — top ranked player in the state — but I didn't get All-Conference. So, the coaches in my conference didn't vote for me for the best lineman and I know that's not potential, that's not the future. That's right now. And I know that a lot of people think that I'm just hype and stuff and I want to be able to show these people — first, I want to show the coaches — I want to make sure they know that I deserve everything that I've gotten, and that I believe in myself and I just need to make them see it. Me and my coach talk about it all the time, and that's what I want to work for. That's like the main individual goal right now.
FOS: You always seemed like a Big Ten guy. You had Michigan on top at one point, Penn State and Ohio State were the two teams in the end. What do you like about that conference?
SJ: When people say what kind of conference about me, I always get SEC because originally that's where I wanted to go. I know a lot of guys go there and I'm not opposing that by liking the Big Ten. It's just that, the Big Ten is close, and it's growing. I feel like it's a growing conference and getting bigger, and, it's like people are always in the SEC and they're rosters are already deep with guys like me. I feel like if I can start something on my own, and be successful with it, it makes that success that much more meaningful. That's part of the reason I wanted to go to Penn State.
FOS: Lastly, where does Penn State see you in the future? And what are some of the things you are working on to improve?
SJ: Specifically to improve on, one thing [Hand] told me, he told me he wanted to, with the pass rush, not sit so deep, and working on run blocking especially. Really just getting the all-around tenacity that comes with playing offensive line. I don't feel like I've completely mastered it yet, but that was one of the things. As for playing at Penn State, the plan is to redshirt and then eventually, be studying Donovan Smith and basically taking under the wing with him and whenever he's out then I become that, whether it be left or right. That was [Hand's] vision for me.