But the Lassiter receiver always had more of a personal connection to the team than just being a fan. And now he plans on being a member of the Volunteers in 2013 under first-year coach Butch Jones.
With his father Lee Jenkins a former defensive back for the Volunteers, Jenkins had a few advantages growing up. He was allowed to go on the sidelines of Neyland Stadium before games to watch the team go through its warm-up rituals. He also had access to the locker room after games. And with his father on the athletic board, Jenkins was allowed to eat dinner with the team he always admired.
However, the chances of the 5-foot-11, 181 pound Jenkins playing for Tennessee fizzled quickly when the Volunteers didn’t show much interest. Also, Lee Jenkins said they were uncomfortable with the stability of former coach Derek Dooley and his staff when his son was on the recruiting radar. In the end, Clemson eventually recruited Jenkins, who had 22 receptions for 442 yards and five touchdowns this season for the Trojans this season, until he verbally committed to join his older brother, Martin, who is a defensive back for the Tigers.
The huge surprise came when Jenkins received a call from Tennessee’s newest coach on his third day on the job. When new Tennessee coach Butch Jones called Ryan Jenkins on his third day on the job. When Jones encouraged Jenkins to consider joining the team he loved his whole life, Jenkins had to hear him out.
He liked what Jones had to say, and Jenkins changed his commitment to the Volunteers. Jenkins could not be reached for comment.
There was a time when Lee Jenkins gave up hope of having a son follow in his footsteps. Now he will have a chance next season to see Ryan run through the T and onto the checkered end zone.
“First of all, it’s a dream come true,” Lee Jenkins said. “The fact that he’ll be playing at my alma mater and playing on the same field I was playing on gives me chills to think about.”
Neither Ryan Jenkins nor his dad had hard feelings about Clemson. Lee Jenkins said he would have been thrilled to have seen his sons play together at Clemson. But Ryan’s lifelong love for Tennessee forced him to reconsider.
And Lassiter coach Jep Irwin tells the same story.
“It wasn’t that Clemson did anything wrong. He would have been happy at Clemson,” Irwin said. “But since he grown up, he’s rooted for Tennessee, and his father was standout defensive back there. The situation changed with new coach. They pushed for Ryan, they made an impression on him right away and he made a decision.”