JACKSONVILLE — Eli Jenkins hasn’t given up on football. Far from it.
Jacksonville State’s all-time leader in total yards awaits the rebooted XFL’s draft in October, another chance to continue his playing career, but he finds a way to stay involved.
Whether throwing passes to other aspiring pros or teaching the game through youth camps and tutoring quarterbacks like Jacksonville High School’s Luke Jackson, there’s still the game. There’s still joy that comes from the pursuit.
“You play football all your life. You’re always going to miss it, if it’s not around,” he said. “Fortunately, I work with kids that play football and are really good at this sport.
“I get to see them and get to train them, and they keep me hyped up.”
Former JSU QB Eli Jenkins leads drills during his skills camp at Jacksonville Community Center. pic.twitter.com/5MWokrwF32— Joe Medley (@jmedley_star) August 24, 2019
Jenkins, who starred through JSU’s run to the 2015 FCS title game, put children ages 5-12 through their paces at Jacksonville Community Center on Saturday at his skills camp and showcase.
He had them rounding cones and reeling in his signature touch passes, abbreviated versions of the back-shoulder magic he so often worked with fellow FCS All-American Josh Barge at JSU.
The same feet that helped Jenkins amass school records of 11,448 total yards and 89 passing or rushing touchdowns worked just as well, teaching kids how to move and play the ball. The trick is to someday make second nature the coordination of feet, arms, hands and eyes, the way Jenkins has always done it.
He works with middle- and high-school quarterbacks through the Jenkins Quarterback Academy, which he started in January 2018. He does skills and film work with young quarterbacks in Birmingham, Jacksonville and Carrolton, Ga.
Jackson, a second-year starter and All-Calhoun County pick after throwing for 1,852 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2018, worked with Jenkins.
“We got some good work in this summer,” Jenkins said. “He’s pretty good. … This year should be a big year for him."
Former JSU QB Eli Jenkins leads drills at his skills camp at Jacksonville Community Center. pic.twitter.com/QVXF36Mk63— Joe Medley (@jmedley_star) August 24, 2019
Jenkins goes back and forth between his native Birmingham and Jacksonville, where 6-year-old son Kaydon lives with his mother and attends Kitty Stone Elementary. On Monday, Jenkins also starts work a sales supervisor at MH Valve in Anniston.
Meanwhile, the pursuit of pro football goes on.
Jenkins made it to the final cut as an undrafted free agent with the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers in 2017, but the Chargers acquired former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones late in a trade and released Jenkins. Jenkins also had tryouts with the Seahawks and Giants.
He opted to give the Canadian Football League a try. The Edmonton Eskimos had his rights but also had four other quarterbacks.
Next up? The XFL.
“They sent the contract out with my agent and talked with my agent and got that in place,” Jenkins said. “It’s like the AAF did. They have a draft, then start up in February, so we’ll see, I guess, in October and November, if a team picks me up and what team it would be, and kind of go from there.
“I’m excited about that. It’s another opportunity to play some ball, and that’s all you can ask for.”
While Jenkins is giving pro football every chance, he’s experienced the process.
“It’s up and down,” he said. “Good days, more good days than bad days, for the most part.
“I always understood football isn’t everything. I always had that mindset that football will end one day, so that definitely helps me with the whole process.”