PISCATAWAY, NJ – Malcolm Jenkins returned to his roots this past Friday and Saturday as he and The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation held the 7th Annual Next Level Youth Football Camp at Piscataway High School.

The free, fun, non-contact football camp gave kids ages 7-17 the opportunity to work with Jenkins, a two-time Super Bowl Champion in the NFL and Piscataway native, and his football friends and volunteers out on the gridiron.

Jenkins was running on fumes with only a couple hours of sleep heading into Friday’s camp, but nonetheless had energy throughout the day. He said, as always, it’s great to be back in the town that he grew up in and to give back.

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“It’s special for me, especially because we get a lot of the same kids that come to the camp every year, so you kind of see them grow and develop,” Jenkins said. “It’s an opportunity for my family to give back and the township to rally together. It’s fun and I enjoy it.”

After check-in and warmups, the participants went through combine drills and testing such as the 40-yard dash, long jump, shuttles, and more. Then, for the first time ever at the camp, Jenkins and crew got everyone together for a little redzone 7-on-7, but, instead of a slew of receivers, a running back, and defensive backs, the drill consisted of having a full offensive line versus defensive line with two receivers and two cornerbacks.

The kids liked the added twist, and when someone made a standout play on defense knocking away the ball or when a receiver skied high for a pass, everybody went nuts.

“We’ve never done that drill,” Jenkins said of the redzone portion. “We’ve done separate one-on-one’s with the linemen (and receivers and cornerbacks), but to be collective and to have an entire offensive and defensive line and receivers going at the same time is great.”

“Coach (Michelle ‘Mickey’ Grace), she coaches the D-line,” he continued. “She’s a friend of mine from Philadelphia.”

Following the redzone drill, lunch arrived. After a full meal and snacks, the break continued inside the high school as Darren Sudman of Eagles’s Care and Simon’s Heart Fund told a story about how his 3½-year-old son, Simon went down for a nap one day and never woke up. Doctors diagnosed him with SIDS.

Since then, Darren has given talks to spread knowledge about the heart and sudden cardiac arrest.

Former NFL and CFL defensive back Donald Washington told a story about his past and gave advice on rising above your current circumstances and about how to turn your life around no matter what.

Former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith talked about how important decision making is and Grace, a football player at Germantown High School in Philadelphia who played D-I rugby at West Chester University of Philadelphia, and defensive line coach of Philadelphia Phantomz, gave a speech about her life and what it’s like to play football as a girl and to coach the guys and to never let people doubt you. She’ll be at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp later this summer as well.

Jenkins, who won three state championships with the Chiefs at PHS, talked about not being afraid to make mistakes, surrounding yourself with good people, being tough and resilient, and more.

“The biggest thing for me with this camp is, I’m not trying to show them how to be the next NFL player,” said Jenkins, who was a Jim Thorpe award winner at Ohio State, which is given to the nation’s best cornerback. “I just want them to see positive role models who are successful and to hear our stories of what we had to do and overcome to be successful and what it takes. Also, when you do become successful, it’s also important to give back and pass it on.”

Once lunch and the speeches were over, everyone headed back to the field for more position-specific drills before the always-exciting and competitive 7-on-7’s. Jenkins, Smith, Washington, and others were all intense and very helpful and encouraging with the kids.

“Most of them are my friends and teammates that I played with. Donald Washington, I played with at Ohio State. Troy Smith, former Heisman winning quarterback, I played with him at Ohio State. I have two of my frat brothers out here, some of the Piscataway High School coaches that were here when I was here or that are a little older than me, everybody I know,” Jenkins said. “I’m a highly competitive person and I keep highly competitive people around me. They’re passionate about it too.”

Awards and autographs were also given out as well.

With the camp being in its seventh year and counting, every year needs to be a little different. And besides the added redzone drill, there was a cheer camp as well.

“We have the cheer camp this year. My cousin (Rayshine Harris) of Shine Tumblers is a 12-time world Power Tumbler,” Jenkins said. “He’s leading the cheer camp and teaching tumbling. The Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders will be here. It’s the first time we’ve had that portion of the camp.

“Every year we try to add something new.”

Speaking of the Eagles, Jenkins, a two-time Pro-Bowler in the NFL and three-time All-American with the Buckeyes won his second Super Bowl ring in February as the safety helped the Eagles top the New England Patriots.

Jenkins laid a big hit on Patriots’ receiver Brandin Cooks in the second quarter during the game, and some of the kids asked him about it throughout the morning and afternoon and about the game and his emotions.

“At least 12 times I’ve had kids ask me about my hit on Brandin Cooks,” Jenkins said. “It’s always fun. They want to know how it felt like and what it feels like now when I go back and watch the game.”

But now that this year’s camp is over, there is planning to do for 2019.

“It makes it special to give back to the community that I grew up in playing in and on the same football field,” Jenkins said. “It’s special to be able to do it here in my hometown.”

TAPintoPiscataway.net is an online newspaper serving the Township of Piscataway.

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