Anatomy of an Era: Jason Scott Jenkins, Part 1
Excerpted from Chapter 70, No Place Like Nebraska: Anatomy of an Era, Vol. 2 by Paul Koch
“Be everywhere, do everything, and never fail to astonish the customer.”
College football? Check. Undefeated, 2-time National Champion? Check. Pro football? Pro boxing? Model? Bodyguard to the rich & famous? Hollywood actor? Hollywood producer? Check, check, check, check, check, check. If there were a more interesting career bucket list I’d like to know who owns it, because Jason Scott Jenkins has pretty much covered all the bases in life. Jersey-raised and cutting his teeth on college football in the Kansas juco realm, Nebraska was ever faithful in its pursuit and eventually brought this actionary, this visionary, this Vitruvian man to campus for the ’94 and ’95 seasons, just in time to augment a run of perfection.
What’s a Vitruvian man, you ask? Well, sometime around 15 BC there lived a famed Roman architect by name of Vitruvius, who plotted his vision of the ideal man’s symmetries, eventually inspiring the 1487 Leonardo da Vinci drawing we’ve seen and know so well. da Vinci’s work, titled Proportions of Man, serves as a reminder for us to continue on, to keep pursing the dimensions, magnitudes, proportionality and scope of life-lessons that occurred amid the University of Nebraska’s football sphere, and this interview should help us garner a semblance of that balance achieved. Gaining an insider’s glimpse into the D-line experience and Coach Charlie McBride himself, our time with Jason should be entertaining.
Notable quote #1:
“A lot of times the whistle would be blowing and the guys were still getting after each other. That was our competitive nature. Nobody wanted to give anything up to each other. You know what that’s like when a whistle blows and two guys are still getting after each other? Well, it was like that all the time.”
Jason Scott Jenkins
Scholarship recruit, Defensive Tackle, Elwood, New Jersey (Oakcrest HS) (Dodge City CC)
Where are they now? Los Angeles, California, Actor/Producer/Model
Question: Hey Jason, I heard you’re modeling for JC Penney’s Big & Tall catalog these days. That’s very neat. How long have you been living in California, now?
JJ: About 8 years. I’m originally from New Jersey. And it’s funny how I ended up here…I was doing some professional boxing and ended up hurting my elbow. I had a five and one record with 5 knockouts as a professional boxer and pretty much fought with one arm when I hurt my elbow, which ended up in a loss. That’s when I tried some acting and modeling. I moved from New Jersey to New York City, then to Los Angeles, and have made a living doing commercials and modeling ever since.
Jason Scott Jenkins awaiting the pitch from Sprite’s LeBron James
In a million years I’d never think I’d be doing what I’m doing now. I always was a go-getter and wanted to try new things, and you never know unless you try.
Q: Well, I propose that a New Jersey kid going to school at Nebraska is a great example of that.
JJ: Yeah, that’s right. To be so far from home and away from the family was difficult. However, to be able to travel that far away for college was a great experience. I couldn’t have picked a better school, that’s for sure.
Q: How did you end up at Nebraska?
JJ: I was recruited by pretty much everyone in the country and I was close to choosing either Miami or West Virginia, but Coach Osborne was the only head coach who came to my doorstep and was standing in my living room. Both Coach Osborne and Frank Solich came to my house in Jersey, met my family, and it couldn’t have gone better.
I always followed Nebraska since I was a kid. The Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry? I used to follow that game every year at Thanksgiving. And when they were actually standing in my living room I was like, ‘Wow! Okay, I have to go there,’ you know?
Q: Did you make an official visit?
JJ: Yes, I did. It was just a great experience, and I knew I would get a good education there. Nebraska has a high graduation rate in their Athletics Department. They seemed to have a lot of support through the different counseling and study groups. One of my main goals was to earn a college degree while playing football. Overall my visit was great, and there were a lot of players at the University of Nebraska from New Jersey.
Q: Tell me about your final game.
JJ: It was against Florida. That was the back-to-back year. It’s funny, I didn’t have the necessary foreign language in high school so I had to go to a junior college first, and I ended up going to Dodge City Community College in Kansas in the Jayhawk Conference, one of the best in the country. And Nebraska stayed with me all through junior college and offered me a scholarship after my sophomore year in junior college. And when I went to Nebraska I redshirted as a redshirt sophomore. So my junior and senior year, my only two eligible years at Nebraska, we were undefeated.
Q: Dude, that ain’t bad for the resume, huh?
JJ: I can say that my whole career as a Nebraska Cornhusker, we never lost.
Q: That’s awesome. Do you recall your first fall on campus?
JJ: Actually, I graduated a bit early from junior college so I ended up coming in the spring, and I was able to get in some spring practice and play in the spring game.
I have a very interesting story about the spring game, which was my first actual all-out football playing day at Nebraska. I believe there was a sweep and I was in at defensive tackle, and it was the opposite direction of where I was playing so I was trying fight off the block and just run into the sideline to make a tackle. And I tell you what, I thought I got hit by a Mack truck! I never saw the guy coming, but he hit me and completely de-cleated me. Wiped me out! And then he stood over me and said, “Welcome to Nebraska football.” That was one of my fondest memories of joining the Nebraska football team.
Q: Was it Zach Weigert?
JJ: I’m not sure who it was, (laughs) but we had a number of guys it could have been. I think I almost went to the wrong huddle afterward, I was a bit dizzy for a minute. I’ll never forget it. I was like, ‘The guys play here! These guys are de-cleaters!’
I’m ready for my closeup...Sprite has met its match!
Q: So you had high school ball and a little juco ball in Dodge City. Was there anything about the program itself that stood out to you or took you by surprise?
JJ: The whole structure. Everything was laid out. The structure they had in place was incredible. And it was very detailed, from early on in the morning to the end of the night, especially during football season and two- a-days, just the whole structure of the athletic football program was amazing. When I first got there I didn’t really know what to expect, but they had it all in place and they had pretty much what our schedule would be like and you just take it one day at a time and learn the ins & outs and the nuances.
Q: What about the Midwestern people?
JJ: Yeah, they were very different from where I grew up in the urban neighborhood in Jersey. A lot of diversity where I was from, so there wasn’t as much diversity when I went to the Midwest… but the people were much nicer. They seemed to want to talk and help you out a lot more than people were where I grew up in Elwood/Hammonton, New Jersey, which is in between Philadelphia and Atlantic City. It’s not a huge town, but all the towns kind of run together.
Q: Kind of like southern California?
JJ: Yeah. Atlantic City was a half hour away, Philadelphia was a half hour, New York City was a two hour drive. So everything was close.
Q: You didn’t have to go too far to get in trouble, then?
JJ: No, but I tried to stay out of trouble.
Q: Do you recall your first teammate or friend you made when arriving on campus?
JJ: My roommate, Marvin Sims, who was a running back at Nebraska. Marvin and I were pretty tight when I first got there. But I was cool with everybody. Obviously, when you have a roommate and you live together you get to share a lot of stories and get to know one another. I lost touch with him years ago, but he was the first guy I got to be friends with out there.
Q: You had Charlie McBride as your position coach from the start?
JJ: Yes, Charlie McBride.
Q: Describe Charlie…
JJ: He knew exactly what he wanted. He wanted his players to play at a real high level 24/7, never take a play off.
Q: Was that different than what you were accustomed to?
JJ: Yeah, in high school I was a running back, defensive tackle, kick returner, kicker, punter. I did it all in high school, so I mean, if I took a play off here or there the coach would never say anything to me.
Q: You were pacing yourself?
JJ: Well, if I was tired or didn’t feel like going as hard, but they didn’t let you do that at Nebraska. “You’re not taking any plays off,” Coach McBride would always say. He was demanding and firm, yet had a great sense of humor, which made him such a great coach. I have some good memories of Charlie McBride. Most memories are just him yelling all the time, (laughs) “Use your hands, use your hands!”
Q: Previous to that you would just bull rush?
JJ: You know, I was a bull in a china shop. (laughs)
Q: Do you remember that stick he had, The Motivator?
JJ: Oh yeah, I remember that thing. Thank God he never used that on me.
Q: In other words, you got off the ball pretty well?
JJ: Yep, that’s right. I better have! (laughs)
Q: Any interaction with Coach Osborne? I know you were on the defense and probably didn’t have as much as the offensive guys did, but do you have any fond memories?
JJ: Yeah, I have a lot of memories. I remember him always coming up and talking to me when we were stretching and getting ready to play on game day. I always remember him coming up to me and saying, “How are you doing, Jason? Are you ready to play today?’ And I would say, ‘Yes, Coach. I’m ready.’ And he would be like, “Alright, let’s get after them. Were gonna have a big day today.” I always remember having had small, right-to-the-point interactions with him personally before the game. I always looked up to Coach Osborne. He was such a great coach.
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Q: What made him great?
JJ: It was a combination of things. He wasn’t a big-time yeller. He didn’t really need to. He just interacted and he understood his players very well. And on game day it was funny, it was almost like he was a prophet or something. He would tell us how the game would go, and the game would go exactly the way he said it would.
Q: Not just the Miami game, but other games too, huh?
JJ: Just about every game he would tell us how the game would go, “These guys will be fighting us really good in the first half, but the second half we’re gonna take off on them,” just whatever the stuff he would say to us, it would always happen the way he said it would. Unbelievable.
Q: Like he had a sixth sense of being able to read into the capabilities, the psyche, of the other team?
JJ: Right, and he did his homework so he knew us and he knew the other team. He was dynamite. The best…
Q: Any other coaches stand out to you from those days?
JJ: Well, I fondly recall Frank Solich. I always had a good relationship with him and Ron Brown. Ron Brown always used to say prayers with us, and I always remember that. He was a Christian like myself. Before the games sometimes we had church service, on Saturday morning before the game. He always prayed with the team.
Q: What was it about Frank Solich that stood out to you?
JJ: He was an upbeat guy. He always had a smile and was almost always in a good mood. He was very genuine and nice to me all the time. Frank Solich was one of the guys who came to my house and recruited me, so I always had a pretty good connection with him. He recruited a lot of guys from New Jersey.
Q: Heck, that goes back to Mike Rozier and Irving Fryar and those guys.
JJ: We had quite a few guys from New Jersey: Christian and Jason Peter, Barron Miles...
Q: Let me ask you, what is it about Jersey? If one were to generalize about guys from New Jersey, something you guys brought to the mix, what would it be?
JJ: Competitive. It’s being competitive. In all sports: wrestling, basketball, football. If you stood out in the state of New Jersey you had to have been a really good player, because the schools were big. There were lots of kids in the schools and there were lots of people to compete against, so if you stood out a lot you had something special.
Q: The reason I ask that question is because Nebraska Football was such a unique place. We did have a lot of guys from Nebraska, but then again, we had so many other guys from all over the country who came together and lent their special attitudes, cultures, what have you, to the mix. Was there a certain amount of pride being from New Jersey?
JJ: Oh, yeah.
Q: What is the basis of that pride?
JJ: Interesting question. I know that every guy that I’ve ever played with who was from Jersey used to be so proud of being from Jersey. Why that is? I’ve never really put my finger on it. I guess we were just proud of where we’re from.
Q: Do you think maybe it was an attitude of having something to prove because New Jersey is the butt of so many jokes in relation to New York, like it’s the red-headed stepchild?
JJ: I don’t know if we had anything to prove, it was just, “Hey, I’m from Jersey. I’m gonna bring a little bit of Jersey to the Midwest, and I’m going show you how we do it.”
Q: “I’m from Jersey. Deal with it!,” huh?
JJ: Yeah, “This is how we get down in Jersey. Now we’re gonna get down in Nebraska. This is how we do it.” We’re all very competitive.
Doug Colman #46 readying to stop a Cowboy
Q: That being said, did you know Christian at all before you came to Nebraska?
JJ: I heard of him a little bit. But we became really good friends once we all played on the D-line together. We were together all the time.
Q: So tell me, what was that like for you?
JJ: Oh, it was fun. Great times. Especially in the meetings. Doug Colman, Christian, Jason and I were all from New Jersey. I played against Doug Colman in high school, it was Ocean City versus Oakcrest. They usually said “Jenkins versus Colman” because we were standouts, so I knew Doug before I went to Nebraska, as well.
Q: Tell me about the D line. Wasn’t there a nickname you guys had for yourselves: ‘Nasty Fat Nasty’?
JJ: They had all kinds of names for us. (laughs) I can’t recall exactly, it might even have been the “No Neck Crew.” (laughs)
Q: You know as well as I do, Jason, that rarely do the guys in the interior line get many props, so I want to expose your unit…
JJ: I really appreciate that, man. Everybody can’t go to the NFL and, unfortunately, everybody can’t start. It was a sacrifice to do the best you can, and we had one of the most powerful teams of all time in college football. Our first and second string probably could have started anywhere in the country, you know? The second team was almost as good as the first team, so we were able to wear people down because we had so many studs at every position. For you to recognize that, I really appreciate that.
Q: Looking back, is there anything you learned that you apply today?
JJ: Absolutely. Based off of what I do now? I was around a bunch of stars then and I still am now, so that’s one thing. Also, my work ethic. I developed a really strong work ethic at the University of Nebraska which I still use in daily life; from staying in shape and keeping my heart strong and my daily hustle, whether it be acting, modeling or producing film, what have you. That’s a strong work ethic that I can be proud of.
JSJ on the red carpet
Q: Who do you think had that effect on you, reinforced that in you?
JJ: It was the whole staff. There was such a good system in place, I couldn’t single anyone out. It was all the coaches, all of the guys like yourself who worked really hard to make sure we were as fast and strong as we could possibly be. Also, there were the counselors and study groups. You name it, it was just a good work ethic in every area that I went to.
Q: Did your family ever make it out for many games?
JJ: Absolutely. My parents made it to a few games, my brothers made it to a few games and especially the bowl games. And there was also the Kickoff Classic that we played in New Jersey in 1994. Man, I can’t count how many family members I had there.
Q: Did you get to play much in that game?
JJ: Yeah, I believe I made two tackles. I was excited. Coach put me in and made sure I got in that game a little bit, that was cool. I’ll never forget it. Coach McBride and all the coaches up there, I have to thank them.
To be continued….
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Photo Credits : Unknown Original Sources/Updates Welcomed
Author assumes no responsibility for interviewee errors or misstatements of fact.