Shepherd’s Jenkins signs with Denver Broncos
As name after name was announced during the three-day National Football League draft, none of which was his, Shaneil Jenkins never got discouraged.
The defensive end from Shepherd with the James Earl Jones-like voice, a Mountain East Conference Defensive Player of the Year honor and an appearance in the Division II national championship game remained upbeat.
He knew his chance at an NFL career would come one way or another, either as a draftee or free agent.
“A lot of teams wanted me,” Jenkins said. “People were trying to get me to promise to them before the draft.
“I had quite a few opportunities. It was north of 10.”
Jenkins settled on the Denver Broncos to sign an undrafted free agent contract, one of three defensive ends the Super Bowl 50 champions inked at the conclusion of Saturday’s draft.
“I felt the Broncos were perfect for me,” Jenkins said. “It’s a winning situation.
“While winning is everything, it’s also a very professional organization. They were very interested and want to develop me.”
He noted that the Broncos lost some defensive ends in free agency.
“So the opportunity is there to make the team,” Jenkins said Sunday morning via cellphone from his family home in District Heights, Maryland. “The opportunity is there.
“I’m coming into it like the situation at Shepherd, have to work my way up and get into the rotation. I just have to be the best I can be.”
The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Jenkins made 41 tackles last season as the Rams advanced to the school’s first national championship game appearance, a loss to Northwest Missouri State, and the defensive end was named as the MEC’s top defender. He led Shepherd with 23 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. He also broke up three passes, forced three fumbles, recovered a fumble and blocked a kick.
“I feel like I’m blessed for the opportunity to play in the NFL,” Jenkins said. “I feel like I made a very strong case to get drafted.”
He likened his situation to that of former Shepherd player Howard Jones, a defensive end with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Undrafted, Jones initially signed a free agent deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers and spent his first season in 2014 on the team’s practice squad while converting to outside linebacker. After failing to make the regular roster in 2015, Jones was signed to the Buccaneers practice squad and returned to defensive end. After a short stint on the reserve unit, Jones joined the roster and was regular contributor on Tampa Bay’s defense.
“It’s something you deal with,” Jenkins said. “We come from a small school, and they don’t know who we play. They don’t want to take a risk in the draft.”
Jenkins won’t be the first former Shepherd player with Denver. Former Rams tight end Dominique Jones spent some time with the Broncos.
“I was completely comfortable with Denver,” Jenkins said.
He’ll join the team later this week for rookie minicamp.
Now that Jenkins gets his chance to prove himself on a professional level, he’s determined to make it.
“I’ll definitely have a chip on my shoulder,” Jenkins said.