The rising senior was invited to the Atlanta Elite 11 regional camp last Friday at Buford High School to compete with 86 different quarterbacks from 19 states, 21 of which already had offers or had committed to Division I caliber schools.
When it was over, not only did Jennings reach the finals, but also he was named the MVP of the event and earned a spot in the Elite 11 finals being held in Southern California in July.
“It’s a great honor to win the MVP,” Jennings said. “It’s a highly rated camp, so it’s a big deal. I really couldn’t have done any of this without the players, coaches and people leading me at Marietta though.
In that group, Walton’s Parker McLeod and Lassiter’s Eddie Printz were in attendance, as well as, Georgia commitment Brice Ramsey from Camden County.
“(Jennings) is an elite player and should be considered among the best in the state and beyond,” Marietta coach Scott Burton said. “There were some of the top names at the quarterback position there … There were 10 or 15 opinions that felt he was the top guy there after two hours of working out and watching every kid’s film.
“(Jennings) is the best quarterback I’ve been around. I think that’s a no brainer. Anthony could play at any number of positions. He just happens to play the most high profile position, and the most important position out there. He has great physical tools, but he’s also exceptionally bright and really understands the game.”
But more than beating out the competition, Jennings was focused on improving his own skills and getting ready for spring football.
“You always want to go into any competition being the best guy there,” he said. “I wasn’t concerned about the other guys there. I was just concerned with myself, and trying to be the best guy I could be at that moment. I wanted to impress the coaches and even impress myself.”
But all of that could have been for nothing at all. After playing through last season with a knee injury, Jennings had offseason surgery that required rehab time over the winter and spring. Two months ago, Burton received an out of the ordinary phone call.
“I got a phone call about two months ago from (former NFL quarterback) Trent Dilfer out of the blue,” Burton said. “I didn’t know how he got my number or Anthony’s film, but he was very complimentary of what he saw. He mentioned the April 20 event at Buford.”
But even with an invite to an invitation-only event competing against some of the top quarterbacks from the region, it was not a guarantee that Jennings would be available to go.
“At that point in time, we still weren’t sure about his knee because it was a week or two after the surgery,” Burton said. “That was all still very up in the air. I explained to (Dilfer) that Anthony played the season on torn cartilage.
“(Dilfer) would call every two weeks to see how (Jennings) was doing. Anthony was released to full activity April 10. He had 10 days to get ready. We worked last week, and the week prior to the event to see where he was and if he was going to be ready. Even if he wasn’t ready, he was going to say that he was. He looked good. I know he’s not where he needs to be health wise yet. His mom, dad and I all agreed that it would be the best decision for him to go.”
Jennings was ready to go despite not yet being full strength. Perhaps more impressive than Jennings’ performance at the Elite 11 camp, might be the amount of time and effort required to recover from his surgery in just two months.
Jennings worked with Marietta assistant coach Jeff Hopp, the team’s athletic trainer, to rehab the knee and get back to health. Sometimes, that would require painful sessions that might make a less dedicated athlete turn away, which would ordinarily lengthen the time for recovery.
Jennings refused to miss a single session despite the pain and discomfort.
“If I’m going to get back to my full potential, I had to go through the pain,” he said. “My trainer, coach Hopp, he helped throughout the process. I thank him for that. He came in, trying to get me to work hard every day. It was just trying to get to my full potential as fast I can. Nobody wants to be hurt. But if you wait around, it’ll just get worse. I had to come in every day even though it would hurt.”
Thus, all of the work Jennings put in to rehab his knee and get ready to compete in this elite camp is already paying dividends. Among the 16 scholarship offers he has already received, the list of Division I schools includes West Virginia, Virginia Tech, South Florida, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Syracuse and North Carolina.