As part of the Next Generation series that looks at the players about to join the Hawkeyes, Land of 10 Iowa reporters Scott Dochterman and Bobby La Gesse examine the recruiting process for members of the class. Up on this Monday is Prairie Ridge (Ill.) 4-star offensive tackle Jeff Jenkins.
CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. — Early on in the recruiting process, Jeff Jenkins received a handwritten letter from a Mid-American Conference school. He thought it was a nice personal touch.
Then he received a second letter from the program.
Every sentence was the same. The only difference was the name at the top. It was addressed to a different player from the Chicago suburbs. Somehow, it was an accident that Jenkins received the letter.
“I wondered how many kids are getting this?” Jenkins said. “I also learned this is how coaches work.”
The snafu opened Jenkins’ eyes to a side of recruiting he never thought about. The 4-star offensive lineman prioritized an honest, open relationship with programs going forward. He found it with Iowa and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, committing in January 2017.
Jenkins, from Prairie Ridge High School (Ill.), recapped his recruitment, the interesting stories from it and how he picked the Hawkeyes in this Land of 10 recruiting rewind.
Land of 10: The letter mixup isn’t your only tale from recruiting. What else happened?
Jenkins: I think the funniest thing for me was I had already committed to Iowa and there were a bunch of D-II and D-III schools trying to call me. A couple came in and tried to talk to me, asking if I wanted to come visit. I was like, really?
Land of 10: How did you respond?
Jenkins: I tried to be nice at first, but it started to get old. One time I was in there and our head coach came down and I said, ‘Are these guys serious?’ You would think they know where a kid is at. It shows you too how much looking into it those coaches had done before and showed you what kind of recruiters they were. It got old after a while, but it was funny at first.
Land of 10: What made Iowa unique?
Jenkins: I think the offensive line tradition that they’ve always had. One thing that brought me to Iowa, to be honest, was Brian Ferentz. He is just a really good coach and he really seemed very personable to me and it seemed like we are similar in a lot of ways.
When he first came in, he offered [Prairie Ridge athlete] Samson [Evans] and then didn’t offer me. He said ‘we didn’t really know where we want you at yet.’ They went down to their bowl game and the first day they could go back on the road, they offered me. They kind of just said that was a mistake not offering me. [Ferentz] kept thinking about it in [his] head. We wanted to offer right away.
It was a cool story to me. The way he said they made a mistake by not doing that meant a lot to me.
Land of 10: Did any other recruiter tell you they made a mistake during the recruiting process?
Jenkins: No. I don’t remember anyone saying that. That was the thing with Iowa. They were so honest with me, unlike a couple of other schools. There were other schools that would come in and say we are only going to take two offensive lineman and we really, really want you and then they went and offered like 50 other offensive lineman.
Some offers from some schools really feel like they meant something and there were some schools that had 300 offers out and Iowa has like 90 out so it just kind of means more. It shows you how much they want you.
Land of 10: You and Ferentz hit it off, didn’t you?
Jenkins: I think so. Just the way he hands himself and is so honest. There is something about him. I don’t know what, but I really connect with him and the way he talks, says things, and is so honest with me. There is just something I like about him.
Land of 10: Did Ferentz moving from offensive line coach to offensive coordinator impact your commitment at all?
Jenkins: It was straight trust factor and I think it was [friend and Purdue offensive lineman] Shane [Evans] who told me this. Don’t commit to a school because of a coach and I felt like Iowa was the only school I could commit to that school because of the coach, because of how long [head] coach [Kirk] Ferentz has been there. I think you have to trust what they have been doing there and he’s been doing it for so long. I always trusted what he had to say.
Land of 10: What was the biggest lesson you learned in recruiting?
Jenkins: I think the biggest lesson I learned in recruiting is you have to be selfish. I definitely learned that. Everyone is going to want you to do something and you have to choose yourself what you want to do and you can’t listen to other people.
Like even some parents want you to do some things. You have to block everyone else and do what you want to do. It’s your decision. That’s the first major decision you are going to make. The biggest thing I learned was being selfish and doing what you wanted to do and just doing it.
Land of 10: What entails being selfish in recruiting?
Jenkins: It’s just whether coaches wanted me to come visit. I didn’t want to try and make coaches happy. I wanted to go places that I wanted to be at.
Land of 10: You wanted to take control of your recruitment?
Jenkins: Right. Here is one thing that happened. It was during recruiting season. A bunch of schools wanted me to wait [to commit] and a bunch of their head coaches were coming down to see me and I committed to Iowa on Sunday and that Friday, two days beforehand, I think I had three Big Ten schools come in and four of the MAC schools that offered me.
I told them I was kind of getting ready to make a decision. I had just got called down, I think, to talk to Illinois. I was walking back to class and before I got back to class, I forgot who it was, but someone was waiting at the door saying I had to go meet with another coach.
So I didn’t get back to class. That period ended and I didn’t get back so I went to the next period and I was in there for like two minutes and I got called down again. It was really funny. I think I missed 70 percent of my classes talking to other coaches.