Gamecock great Corey Jenkins reflects back on amazing journey

Gamecock great Corey Jenkins reflects back on amazing journey

Corey Jenkins grew up in the shadow of Williams-Brice Stadium and had a lifelong dream of running out of the tunnel to "2001" and playing for the Gamecocks.  

He wanted to be inside the stadium so much that growing up, he went with some friends to sell peanuts and sodas just so he could have a way to watch the game. 

"Me and my brother and friends and everybody we knew would try to come up and sell sodas and peanuts and I was literally like 10 years old," Jenkins said. "It was a way to get into the football game because I love football so much. Let's just say I didn't sell a lot of sodas. I was more so putting them down and watching the game."

Jenkins became a star quarterback at nearby Dreher High School and had scholarship offers from all across the country. With so many different schools wanting him, it was a stressful process for Jenkins, who probably thought a little too much about where he wanted to go and made it harder than it had to be.

"I just woke up one morning and said, 'you know what, I'm going to South Carolina,'" Jenkins recalled. "I don't know why I made this so hard." 

So common sense took control of Jenkins and he committed to play for the Gamecocks. But it would be six years before he ever got to put on the Garnet and Black and fulfill his lifelong dream.

Why the long wait? Well, Jenkins was also an outstanding baseball player and in 1995, he was taken in the first round of the MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox. Jenkins ultimately decided to try professional baseball and spent four years in the minor leagues. 

After his baseball career ended, Jenkins decided he wanted to give football a shot once again. He attended Garden City Junior College for two years and in his final season, accounted for 18 touchdowns and quarterbacked his team to a perfect record and a No. 1 ranking in the junior college ranks.

Finally, in 2001, Jenkins enrolled at South Carolina and on Sept. 1, he was able to run out of the tunnel to "2001" in front of more than 80,000 fans. That first game against Boise State was a memorable one, but not for the reason you might think.

"My first carry, I fumbled," Jenkins said. "The guy put his head right on the ball and it popped out. So that wasn't a good start."

However, the rest of that first year was much better for Jenkins, who was a backup quarterback to Phil Petty. Jenkins was the ground threat at the position, rushing for 303 yards and three touchdowns. 

In 2002, Jenkins started nine games at quarterback and threw for over 1,300 yards to go with 655 rushing yards, and accounted for 11 touchdowns. Toward the end of the year, head coach Lou Holtz moved Jenkins to linebacker in the hope that NFL teams would see his potential. 

The move worked, and Jenkins was selected in the sixth round of the 2003 NFL draft by the Miami Dolphins as a linebacker. He would go on to play two years in the NFL before ending his career in the Canadian Football League. 

NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau became Jenkins' mentor and he and some of Jenkins' other teammates could not believe that he played quarterback in college when they were told.

"They all just kind of lost their minds," Jenkins said. 

Jenkins also had other memories in the NFL that included talking with teammates about how great the atmosphere at Williams-Brice Stadium was.

"I've had guys say to me, 'when you guys are really playing good football and that crowd really gets into it, it's a really tough place to play,'" Jenkins said. 

Jenkins was recently back for the alumni flag football game prior to the annual Garnet and Black spring football game and was happy to be back in town. He recognizes that his journey has been an incredibly unique one.

"Not a lot of people have a chance to do what I'm doing," Jenkins said. "I was a first-round draft pick in baseball and I was a sixth-round draft pick in NFL football. I played college football at my dream college where I grew up literally two minutes down the street."

Jenkins is proof that no matter the obstacles put in front of you, if you keep fighting and working at what you want, anything is possible. 

"My faith is really strong and for people who don't believe, I am a true believer that whatever is meant for you is going to be for you and can't no one stop that," Jenkins concluded. 

**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Brian Hand**