A STUDY OF THE UNDERSTUDY




Nov. 8, 2011

By Ryan Yanoshak, Army Athletic Communications - Think your day is busy? Learn about Max Jenkins and then decide.

Jenkins, Army's senior quarterback is not only one of three football team captains, he also holds the position of Brigade Deputy Commander, the No. 2 leadership position in the Corps of Cadets.

While most people are in bed, Jenkins is assisting Charles Phelps, the Brigade Commander, ironing out issues and solving problems well before morning formation outside of the Mess Hall.

After a day full of classes, the Engineering Management major is off to football practice where his leadership ability is again on display with a whole different set of concerns.

Jenkins, a 6-foot-2, 195-punder, is one of three players you will see walk to midfield for the coin toss and one of three players wearing that prestigious "C" on his jersey along with senior linebackers Steve Erzinger and Andrew Rodriguez.

"I can't really describe my feelings when I was selected team captain," said Jenkins. "Steve and Andrew are two of my best friends and to walk alongside them and be recognized as an Army team captain is a dream come true. With that comes responsibilities, and every day I make sure I do my part. At the end of the day, it's about helping the team win and making sure the team is set up for success." Jenkins may don the shined gold helmet and step under center against Fordham but he may not. Such is the life of a back-up quarterback.

Like his Brigade Deputy Commander position, Jenkins thrives in this role as well.

The native of Houston, Texas, not only makes decisions that affect the entire Corps of Cadets, he also makes choices that affect the Black Knights.

"It's a one day at a time mentality around the football program," said Jenkins. "Today's practice, today's lift, today's meeting and winning every step of the way. If you prepare to win, Saturday's will reflect that preparation. We know what this team is capable of."

Jenkins has appeared in six games this season with a pair of pass completions and an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jared McFarlin in the first game of the season. He has also rushed six times with a long carry of nine yards.

When he is not in the game, Jenkins is doing his part on the sidelines. With his baseball cap turned backwards, Jenkins is on a headset, assisting in getting the play calls into the offense. With Army utilizing a no-huddle offense, Jenkins is a key cog in getting the play called and making sure the proper massive signs are used to signal the play are displayed.

"It's an interesting role," said Jenkins. "Coach (Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ian) Shields and I have a great relationship. I look at it as my duty to make sure all of the quarterbacks are prepared for the game. If I have to step in, I have to produce. My goal is for the offense not to have a hiccup if I have to step in. That's how I approach it each and every week." Jenkins' value has not been lost on third-year head coach Rich Ellerson and the rest of the coaching staff either.

"Max is one of those guys, with relatively few reps during the course of the week, who maximizes what he takes away from those opportunities. He may not be the weapon, at times, that we feel (starting quarterback) Trent (Steelman) can be, but his ability to manage the offense, his ability to execute and get us into the right play and keep giving the offense a chance is really remarkable when you consider relatively few snaps he has had.

"He is part of that dialogue on the sideline," Ellerson added. "He sees the game with a unique perspective and his voice is definitely a part of that. He can help us an awful lot with what we're seeing."

Whether it's helping Phelps with a project of deciding where the ball goes in Army's triple-option offense, Jenkins has grown into a tremendous leader that is respected on the football fields and at West Point.

"I'm nearing the end of my cadet career and there are still a lot of things left to accomplish both on and off the field," said Jenkins. "If you asked me if I would be in a leadership position three years ago, I would have laughed. It's an honor to be considered for any leadership position here at West Point, let alone being picked. I am just trying to do my best and inspire the cadets around me."

Like most cadets, it wasn't easy for Jenkins. Army's strenuous 47-month program to develop leaders of character is a grind that tests you mentally and physically and prepares you to lead troops in combat situations.

Jenkins wasn't entirely sure a military career was for him. He wasn't seeing a ton of playing time on the field and he was dealing with the heart-wrenching passing of his father, Mark, midway through his education.

While Jenkins knew little about West Point, he made his commitment during his official visit. Blown away by the facilities, history and tradition of leadership, Jenkins was excited about the chance to play Division I football and get a top-notch education.

He was part of a huge roster his freshman season that included 10 quarterbacks and his first losing campaign ever. A change in coaches meant maybe Jenkins would see more time under center, but the emergence of Chip Bowden (West Point '11) relegated Jenkins to back-up duties.

When Ellerson took the reins as head coach prior to the 2009 season, Jenkins studied and learned the triple-option offense and used that to his advantage to secure the No. 2 role behind then-freshman Trent Steelman.

Jenkins was part of history a year ago, helping the Black Knights to a thrilling 16-14 victory over SMU in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl and Army's first winning season since 1996. He competed in seven games that season and rushed for his first career touchdown.

It all might not have been possible following the passing of his father. Instead, the outpouring of support from his teammates, classmates, faculty and staff and family helped him through a challenging time.

"It was the toughest time of my life," said Jenkins. "I have a wonderful family and the West Point and football family was tremendous. It is a brotherhood and all that it embodies. After that rough spot, it was evident that this was the place for me and that brought it into perspective."

Jenkins' served as Summer Garrison Commander and spent time training in Germany. When he returned, he learned that he was chosen as Deputy Brigade Commander, a fitting title earned every step of the way. Branch night is in the coming months and Jenkins plans to choose Infantry when his name is called. First, a stint as an Athletic Intern and then picking a post before embarking on a military career when he will continue to be a leader of character.

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