Soundview resident Jayden Jenkins fell in love with football at a young age. But the teen knew sports could only get one so far in life and education matters greatly in career advancement.
That is why last week, the teen announced he planned to attend West Point to play football, while simultaneously building his career in the military.
Jenkins, a senior at Stepinac High School in White Plains, is anticipating the next chapter in his life.
“I’m ready to leave,” he said to the Bronx Times. “It feels unbelievable.”
Jenkins, who was born and raised in Concourse, originally wanted to play basketball like his dad Ronald. However, he was soon introduced to the pigskin by a few of his older cousins. At 6 years old, he was hooked and never left the game.
“It’s fun, that’s why I wanted to play with the Harlem Jets,” he recalled.
According to Jenkins, while he plays running back and is a scoring machine, the contact and the physicality are what drew him in.
He was a member of the Jets through middle school but when he entered high school, he noticed that many of the kids were bigger than him. So he hit the weight room, bulked up and practiced nonstop.
During the past three years, he improved his skill set and helped the team win state championship twice.
“High school was different. I knew I wanted to go to college for football and get a great education,” Jenkins said, adding that football made him more mature and a better leader.
“I don’t really look at myself as being good, I just like to work hard,” he said.
Jenkins explained to the Bronx Times that he owed a debt of gratitude not only to his coaches, but also to his parents, Ronald and Lanel. They kept him focused and always made sure school came first.
“They taught me right from wrong and now that I’ve gotten older, they’ve given me more knowledge about making decisions on your own,” he said.
He noted that sadly in the Bronx, many people aren’t as fortunate as him. Jenkins said football and basketball kept him off the street and out of trouble.
Leaving the hustle and bustle of the city for high school helped start him on his journey for college. As his play improved on the field, schools like Columbia, Sacred Heart, Army and Navy were after him.
Yet nothing felt right until he visited West Point. The size of the school and atmosphere made him feel welcome.
“They [West Point] set you up for life,” he explained. “You can pick different branches you want to go into in the military.
He expressed sorrow that his grandfather Jimmy, who he was close with, passed away recently from COVID-19 and won’t get to see him play collegiately or serve in the military.
While the pandemic has canceled football this year, the teen still cannot believe he is going to West Point.
“I was shocked,” he said when recalled when he found out he was accepted. “My parents told me my time is going to come.”