Tim Jenkins has a job that many others can only dream about.
Jenkins, the former ThunderRidge and Fort Lewis College quarterback, recently signed a rookie free agent contract with the National Football League's St. Louis Rams and is currently studying the playbook, attending meetings and participating in Organized Training Activity workouts.
“I'm just learning from all the vets,” said Jenkins. “I just listen a lot more than I talk. I just listen to what they have to say and kind of just follow along in their steps. It's brand new. I'm brand new having quarterback be my job as opposed to something I just did for school.”
Jenkins, a four-year starter at Fort Lewis in Durango who ranks high on many of the Skyhawks' career passing charts, was invited to the Rams' rookie minicamp May 10-12 on a tryout basis and by his own admission played well.
“I'm the kind of guy that it's hard for me to admit if I played well, but I think during the rookie mini camp I probably had like 10 incompletions through the whole thing,” said Jenkins. “So I played pretty well during the mini camp.”
Jenkins signed a three-year, $1.49 million contract May 13 and is one of four quarterbacks on the Rams' roster. Coach Jeff Fisher has stated that Sam Bradford is No. 1 and Austin Davis is the backup. So it is likely that Jenkins will be competing with ex-Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemens, who is entering his ninth season, for the No. 3 position. The practice squad would be another possibility for the 2008 ThunderRidge graduate.
“It's definitely a dream come true,” said Jenkins. “I found out the day before Mother's Day that I was going to be signing a contract. I called my mom and told her that. I think that was a pretty good Mother's Day gift.
“It is something you think about but it's hard because you feel like you are in such a whirlwind.”
Jenkins, 22, isn't getting a lot of reps but has been told that he is looking better.
“I was talking to the strength coach (Rock Gullickson) and he was saying how much better I'm looking each day,” said Jenkins. “I'll get a couple reps here and there. The NFL is pretty crazy. Pretty much the ones (starters) take practice the whole day. The thing that coach Fisher does that is pretty cool is we'll have the OTAs and I'll get as many reps essentially as the twos and threes. Then when all the vets go in we'll have a rookie period where we just do rookie seven-on-seven or rookie one-on-ones. I get all the reps during that time.
“I have nothing to lose. I go out every day and when we are stretching I try to take a minute to cherish the opportunity, really soak in all the memories because I know it's not here forever.”
Jenkins believes the biggest adjustment coming from college into the NFL is mental.
“I think for a quarterback, a lot of it stays the same just because obviously it's faster, but throwing an out is still throwing an out,” he said. “For a quarterback a lot of the physical side is the same, but the mental side of it is different. I mean some of our plays are 18-word sentences. The terminology is different.”
Jenkins, who has been targeted by the veterans for rookie initiation, says the amenities of playing in the NFL are unlike NCAA Division II Fort Lewis and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
“From stepping into the locker room, having wooden lockers, all the Gatorade you can drink, cleats, shoes, gear and all the food you can eat, it's night and day from Fort Lewis,” said Jenkins. “You can't go hungry or thirsty walking around in the NFL.”
Jenkins has a realistic outlook on his football future.
“When I got the opportunity for football to be my job, all you want to do is take advantage of it,” he said. “The NFL is not a permanent career, it's just a couple years, so you have to take advantage of it while you can. All you can do is go out and leave everything on the field because ultimately if you hang around the NFL isn't your choice. It's up to other people and if they think you can play on their team then they want you and if not, they let you go.
“From everything my agent said, the next four or five years of my life will be playing football somewhere, whether it's in the NFL or Canadian Football League. I'll make a little bit of money playing football, then I think what I'll end up doing is becoming a teacher and a coach. So many of those coaches like coach (Joe) Johnson and coach (Jon) Ackerman at ThunderRidge played a huge role developing the kind of guy I became.”
Jenkins' career path included only one full season at ThunderRidge. He broke his collarbone during the Grizzlies' first practice his junior season and when he came back he dislocated his hip.
“Tim was a good runner and easily the best passer and reader of defenses and decision maker in the passing game that I've coached,” said Johnson, ThunderRidge's head coach. “And we've had some good kids.
“He just had a nightmarish junior year and that's a very important year to get recognized. He really didn't play at all for us because of some injuries. He was awesome for us as a senior.”