Terry Bowden coached Janoris Jenkins last year at North Alabama.
Bowden has spent many hours away from the field with Jenkins, He’s fielded so many calls from NFL teams about Jenkins over the last few months that he lost track of just how many.
He knows why teams covet Jenkins — he’s a naturally gifted cornerback breaking into a league that covets them — and why teams might shy away. Jenkins has had drug issues, paternity issues and maturity issues. Those issues are the reason he left Florida and ended up at Div. II North Alabama for his senior year.
I asked Bowden — now the head coach at Akron — on Thursday a simple question: If you were an NFL team, would you draft Jenkins in the first round tonight?
“Absolutely,” Bowden said. “I had the luxury of coaching him. It was a pleasure. I had him at my house, in my office for hours at a time. I know him better than most, and I think the team that drafts will know what I know — that he hasn’t been perfect, but he’s learned from his mistakes.
“I know why they ask, and I know why an NFL coach would be hesitant. I just know Janoris came to North Alabama to prove he could go a year without getting in trouble, to get that fresh start and go forward.”
Bowden said he talked to “everybody” — from ex-Florida coach to Urban Meyer, to current Florida coach Will Muschamp, to Jenkins’ high school coach and family — before deciding to take Jenkins at North Alabama.
“I did my homework,” Bowden said. “I did a cost-benefit analysis and it came up easy. The cost was low and the benefit of adding such a great player was high. But I really did dig in and make sure we were getting a kid whose head was in the right place. I have turned kids away. I’m glad I got Janoris.
“He easily could have gone to the supplemental draft last year, taken the easy way out. Instead he played a season in Division II, a season with one pair of old shoes, eight-hour bus rides and Big Macs for pregame meals. I suspect that made him hungrier, so to speak.
“I know he’s not perfect, but he’s sorry about the past. He’s excited about the future. I’m very sure he’ll get picked late in the first round or maybe very early in the second, but he should be a first-rounder. He’s an outstanding football player.”