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Meade County coach Larry Mofield considers a football player’s sophomore season to be the most important year for their development.
During that season, kids make the transition from freshman football to varsity and really start to grasp what they are going to have to bring to the field every day if they want to eventually contribute – even if it means not playing much that season.
So how does a kid who elected not to play his sophomore season come in as a junior and make a big impact on both sides of the ball?
Pose the question to Meade County senior Travis Jenkins, the one who accomplished that feat, and even he isn’t sure.
“I don’t really know,” he said. “When I took that sophomore year off, I wasn’t as big into football as I am now. Taking that year off, I realized how much I missed the game and how much I missed playing. Coming back my junior year, I just worked as hard as I could.”
Mofield has a better understanding of how the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Jenkins became a mainstay at tight end and at defensive end.
“The one thing he had that some guys don’t when they come back is he was a physical kid. He didn’t mind hitting,” Mofield said. “That was one thing last year we knew when we started him at defensive end when we knew he might make some mistakes. But his effort and attitude overcame the mistakes he made and he ended up being a fine defensive lineman for us.”
Jenkins’ teammates agree.
“For one, he’s very strong. He’s very dynamic in that regard,” said senior Matt Millay, who is a returning starter at center and is also expected to see time with Jenkins on the defensive line. “His size plays to his advantage as well and he’s going to be a great asset for those two reasons particularly. Also, he hits hard on the field. He doesn’t hold back.”
After his freshman year, Jenkins decided he didn’t want to play football anymore because as he said, he just wasn’t in it.
During the winter of his sophomore year while playing basketball, Jenkins started to get the itch to get back on the field. Having football players like senior Zeb Wilson, senior Luke Wilson, junior John Wilson and junior Micah Kaiser also in the basketball program certainly didn’t hurt.
“Being that most of the basketball players also play football, it had a big part,” Jenkins said. “(Them) always talking about it made me miss it more.”
That spring, with football workouts in full swing and the season starting to come into focus, Jenkins made up his mind to give the sport another try.
“Seeing all of them out there having fun, I just knew I was going to come back that next year,” Jenkins said.
While his size played a big role, Jenkins won a starting job just by using his natural ability and trying to remember everything he learned as a freshman.
“The freshman coaches did a pretty good job freshman year and a bunch of that, I just remembered,” Jenkins said. “There was some stuff I’d forgotten, but I remembered a lot of it and just listened to Coach Mofield whenever he taught me my steps so I could get back out onto the field.”
Now, Jenkins has put himself in a position where he’s too important to come off the field.
Mofield knows Jenkins’ biggest value lies on defense, especially for a unit that is lacking depth on the defensive line. The defensive linemen are crucial to the Green Wave because they’re responsible for freeing up the linebackers to make plays.
That’s why on offense – even though he’s a great target for quarterback Zeb Wilson and enjoys the physicality of run-blocking – Mofield will try to steal breaks for him, even if they aren’t very frequent.
“He’ll be one of those kids who won’t come off the field much,” Mofield said. “Special teams will be a chance to get him off the field. We were fortunate he wasn’t hurt last year because he was able to come in and play a lot of minutes on both sides of the ball.”
While football wasn’t a part of his life just two years ago, it could be a part of his future. Jenkins said he’ll do whatever it takes to play in college, even if it means switching positions.
Besides his natural ability, his greatest asset may be his versatility because with his size, coaches would be able to mold him to fit their plan. With someone who is 6-4 with big shoulders, he could easily put on 40-50 pounds and play either defensive tackle, offensive tackle, or just stick with defensive end or tight end.
Mofield said he’s talked to Jenkins about that, but he’s just looking forward to seeing Jenkins wreak havoc for the Green Wave on Friday nights.
“He’s just a great kid,” Mofield said. “Getting him back out has been a huge plus for us.”
Ryan O’Gara can be reached at (270) 505-1754 or firstname.lastname@example.org.