Success from the start

CLARKSTON, Ga. -- As the future stars in the Class of 2012 took the stage at Hallford Stadium on the campus of Georgia Perimeter College in the AT&T Georgia Junior Bowl, Jordan Jenkins (Hamilton, Ga./Harris County) had to wonder what's next.

"This was the best experience I've ever been involved in," Jenkins said.

The 6-foot-3, 228-pound defensive end has a good shot at being the top-rated player in the state during the next recruiting cycle. And things have already gotten crazy for him.

"I get so much mail, and you know I don't really complain about any of it," Jenkins said. "It's nice to have people at the highest level recognize your talents and hard work."

One piece of mail surprised even Jenkins.

"I got a letter from the new Florida head coach, Will Muschamp, like a day after he got the job," Jenkins added. "That was real cool."

Jenkins has gotten letters from virtually every coach with a big-time program as well as offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, UCF and Vanderbilt.

The rising senior was also a featured participant in last week's Under Armour combine in Orlando, Fla.

"Normally, I really don't like combines, actually I hate them," Jenkins said. "But the Under Armour combine was real nice. It was probably the most fun out of all the ones I've been to.

"It wasn't just straight-up drills, it had some flexibility stuff and every type of element you need in football."

Unfortunately, Jenkins wasn't able to stick around to watch the Under Armour All-America Game practices, but he did catch the game on ESPN -- a 24-22 victory by the Red team.

"We had to come aback right away; we weren't able to watch practice, but I enjoyed the game," Jenkins said. "There was a lot of talent in that event. A lot of five-star players like [Jadeveon Clowney (Rock Hill, S.C./South Pointe)]."

Whether Jenkins reaches the five-star plateau or is part of the 2012 Under Armour All-America Game remains to be seen, but he was a star at the Georgia Junior Bowl and feels that the event has given him a leg up on earning future accolades.

"The game is really nice to gauge where I am as a player," Jenkins said. "There is a lot of good, rising talent here and it helps you get better to go against good people.

"You can't slack off because you'll get knocked down real fast."

Right now, Jenkins said that Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia Tech, Auburn and Florida are the schools that have shown the most interest early in the process.

He has a few showcases and junior days planned in the future, but for now it's back to training.

"I'm going to chill out and try to continue to work hard in the weight room and prepare for the upcoming months," Jenkins said.

First junior bowl a success

For event organizers Joe Burns and Izell Reese, the first AT&T Georgia Junior Bowl could not have been better.

From the week of programs leading up to Saturday's game -- a 20-18 victory for the West over the East -- it was a rousing success.

"All the kids are still submitting their responses to me on Facebook," Burns said. "We thought we had an idea but we had no clue about the impact it made.

"That alone was amazing and that was our mission. We wanted to make these young men understand their roles as leaders, and I think we did."

From the beginning, Reese and Burns said the event was only about 25 percent football, and it showed with daily presentations from representatives with the NFL Players Association and Glen Terry of the NCAA Eligibility Center (formerly known at the NCAA Clearinghouse).

Burns said that he and Reese had just four months to plan the event and are excited about the prospects of having an entire year. They have said that they would like to expand the event into other states.

"You know you're going to have kinks the first year, but it wasn't major," Reese said. "We had a game, we have some excellent performances."

But for Reese it was the postgame experience that made the difference.

"We had 10-15 guys that got up and said, 'My life has been changed by this week,'" Reese said. "They said, 'I can't focus my life on football alone. I need to be focused on my education and more involved in my community.'"

Reese, who played seven seasons in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills, said that feedback made the whole event worthwhile.

"Just like the rookie symposium was an eye-opening experience, this was the same for them," said Reese. "I know that the kids that came through this first year understand what it takes to be a successful athlete and a success in life, whether it's on the field or not."

Reese said his phone has been inundated with voice messages and e-mails from parents and even college coaches interested in bringing similar events to their campuses.

"Our next move is to have meetings and talk about what we can improve on," said Burns. "We're going to listen to ideas and opinions and move forward."

The players that took part in the first-year event have also expressed a desire to come back and pass along knowledge.

"We now have young men that want to be ambassadors for the future of this event," Reese said. "It makes me so happy to see the immediate results and I'm excited about the long-term results."

For more information on the game please visit www.risingseniors.com

Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at coreyespn@gmail.com.