One of the most notable sports figures in nation, especially here in the Northeast region is New York Yankees' reliever and future Hall of Famer, Mariano Rivera. And like most relievers in baseball, one has to remain mentally and physically ready to step in at any time and any situation.
The same can be said for Army senior quarterback Max Jenkins, who has played in the shadows of junior signal caller, Trent Steelman. Since the time the Bowling Green (KY) native stepped foot onto the turf of Michie Stadium, he has never looked back and has started 32 straight games.
"As a back up, my job is to be ready anytime," shares Jenkins. "The goal of it is to be able to step in and there not be a hiccup in the offense. Luckily the way we practice with the two huddles and getting lots of lots of reps ... Coach Shields (OC) always says practice hard fight easy. So that is kind of the mentality with have to take as an offense across the board."
Even with that said, Jenkins has spent more time holding the clip board and wearing headsets on the sideline.
PHOTO OF MAX WITH HEADSETS
Needless to say, Steelman's streak is impressive and to do so as a triple option quarterback, who endures a hit on almost every play speaks volumes of Steelman's durability.
However, when the Black Knights host New York neighbor Fordham University at West Point on Saturday, that streak will come to a complete halt. During Army's loss to Vanderbilt this past weekend, Steelman suffered a lower leg injury that will have him out indefinitely.
Over the past 3 seasons, Army fans have become accustomed to seeing #8 under center, but when the Black Knights run out for their first offensive series, it will #11, which belongs to Max Jenkins. According to Head Coach Rich Ellerson, the 6-foot-2, 195 pound senior is more than capable of getting the job done.
"Max is a senior, he's had a thousand reps and he's the guy who when you're going into a contest where there's a lot of uncertainty with what your opponent is going to be doing and how you match up, it makes all the sense in the world to have a veteran hand out there," Ellerson shared at Tuesday's Press Conference.
Throughout his tenure, Jenkins has had his share of moments where he has had to step in for Steelman, who over the past three seasons has been knocked out of various games ... either for a play, a series or even the balance of the contest.
He probably would have gotten teary eyed, then say that he was proud of me and that's probably all he could have gotten out," says Jenkins with a slight chuckle. "I probably would have made fun of him for getting emotional.
- QB, Max Jenkins' thoughts on what his dad would say about getting the starting nod.
And against Vandy, Jenkins was called upon once again. "At half-time it seemed that Trent was out and so they were going to go with me," Jenkins shared with GoBlackKnights.com, just before Tuesday's practice. "We were behind so it was just getting that focus and making sure that everybody is ready to go out there and keep fighting to pull ourselves back into the game. Unfortunately it didn't happen like that but, live and learn and use that to get better to get ready for Saturday."
Ready to Play
Jenkins understands Steelman is a fan favorite and that there is an expectation that now goes along with playing quarterback for the Black Knights. But don't count the senior out just yet.
"With the triple option it all starts with the quarterback, which is getting us in the right play, making sure schemes are right and that everybody is on the same page," he adds. "I take that to heart, making sure that mentally I'm prepared. I like to consider myself know what everybody is suppose to be doing on every play. I see myself as an all around player ... I may not be the fastest or throw the ball the furthest, but try to do the best I can and whatever is needed of me."
Contrary to what some may believe, the relationship between Army's #1 & #2 quarterbacks serves only as example that within the ranks of competition can also exist the comradery of brotherhood. So with Steelman on the sidelines on Saturday, don't be surprised to see Jenkins pull his quarterback partner to the side to receive some game day advice. "We were up here all yesterday afternoon and he (Trent) was up here to, so we were talking the entire afternoon," says Jenkins, who has nothing but admiration for his wounded teammate. "It's unfortunate what happen to him, but knowing Trent he has the heart of a lion, so he's going to be fighting as hard as he can to get back on the field as soon as possible."
"He and I have a great relationship and weather it's him playing or myself we are always working together to make sure that set the team up for success. I'm preparing the best I can to help lead the team to a win."
A Cadet With Many Hats
It is that type of temperament and leadership qualities that finds Jenkins in a rare role that you be hard pressed to find at any other Division I football program across the nation. He is one of three captains this season and one of two selected by his peers. Of course the irony of this designation is the fact that Jenkins is a non-starter which only validates the qualities that not only make for a solid ball player, but leader.
And those leadership attributes don't stop with his teammates, but extends to the Corp of Cadets.
"I'm the Deputy Brigade Commander, so I'm number two behind the First Captain," states Jenkins, who works with the Brigade staff, ensuring that all operations relative to the many facets of the corp are running smoothly and consistent with the mission of the academy.
In this role, Jenkins works very closely with USCC and officer chain of command, where he is the liaison between them and the corp.
And so what are his plans upon graduation? "I'm planning on branching Infantry and we actually pick that in a week in a half," he declares. "I plan on being a graduate assistant next fall and coach at the prep school, then from there start my career as an infantry officer."
However, before graduation and post grad plans there remain five more football games for which Jenkins may find himself under center trying to get the Army offense back on track after a disappointing loss to Vanderbilt that saw a drop in production.
"Offensively, we have shown some signs of greatness this year, but we have to get back to those little things and those perfectos, weather it's ball security or mental assignments," he says. "We're close to being an exceptional offense this year so, we are just working to get back on track and finish the season off the right way."
On Saturday, Jenkins will join his fellow senior teammates for their last horrah at Michie Stadium, and for the QB he now finds himself in a unique position .... as the starter. "Of course I'm excited and blessed to have this opportunity, but it's early in the week and we still have a lot of preparation - a lot of work to do before Saturday," he shares. "But come Saturday, it's going to be a surreal feeling ... it's Senior Night, last game at Michie Stadium and my mom's making a trip up, so it's going to be a great experience. Hopefully I can do what I can to help lead the team to victory."
Yes, Jenkins will be able to share that special moment with his mother, but it was two years ago, during his sophomore year that the Houston (TX) native lost his father. Surely a moment that no young person wants to experience, but unfortunately Jenkins did, but yet has obviously endured.
When asked to share what he thinks his father would say to him after finding out that his son Max would be starting his final home game at Michie Stadium, Jenkins had this to share.
"He probably would have gotten teary eyed, then say that he was proud of me and that's probably all he could have gotten out," says Jenkins with a slight chuckle. "I probably would have made fun of him for getting emotional."
On the season, Jenkins is just 2 for 11 for 20 yards in the air and one touchdown. On the ground he has rushed for 19 years with a 3.2 yards per game average.
Look for freshman quarterback Angel Santiago to receive reps on Saturday against Fordham. The Fountain (CA) native looked very comfortable in running the offense in back-up duties against Vanderbilt and brings an impressive level of athleticism to the quarterback spot.
"Obviously, Angel is going to play," shared Ellerson during Tuesday's press conference. "I was encouraged. He got most of his reads. He made some things happen with his feet. He completed a ball. He scored a touchdown. That's not surprising. He's had a million reps in practice. He's prepared well. It's gratifying to see him get into a tough environment and handle it well. That's not surprising that he handled that."
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