MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Mustangs arena football team kicked off their 2012 season on St. Patrick's Day in Arizona, and while the team lost a close one in the final moments, it was a breakout game for a player from Milwaukee.
Mustangs receiver Jared Jenkins did a lot of things right in the squad's first game of the season. "13 catches, 211 yards. Did a great job. He's got a long way to go, but tremendous as far as his ability to play this game," Mustangs' Coach Bob Landsee said.
The Milwaukee native also scored two touchdowns, earning him offensive player of the week honors. "It's a really great feeling. You always dream as a kid of playing in front of your friends and family, so it's almost like a dream come true," Jenkins said.
Jenkins is a rookie in the AFL, but has spent time with a few NFL teams, hooking up with the Lions and the Rams after playing football and basketball at UW-Stevens Point. "Anytime you can be on such a level as them, you learn so much about the work they put in. Hard work, timing, everything that you see them do to try to incorporate into yourself to be a better athlete and a better player. I always put pressure on myself, so to come out and perform and be successful in anything I do," Jenkins said.
Talent and work ethic aren't the only things separating Jenkins from the pack. "I think his brain, I gotta be honest with you. His mind for understanding the concept of the game, and picking up things quickly is incredible," Coach Landsee said.
Even early on, Coach Landsee has praised Jenkins, calling him one of the biggest surprises on the team this year. Jenkins might not even be on the football field if he wasn't able to convince his mom to let him play the game again, after an injury in high school. "Begged, and begged heavily. I wanted to play so bad, and then I broke my thumb and she was so worried and wouldn't let me play my sophomore year," Jenkins said. "Every mom is like that," Coach Landsee said. "I was like 'I'm really good, mom. You have to let me go out,' so I eventually talked her into it and it worked out for the best," Jenkins said.
Now, Jenkins' mom, who still lives in Milwaukee, watches her son play. Jenkins knows that opponents are as well, especially after his breakout game, but at 6'3", he plans on using his length and basketball skills to shield defenders and consistently come away with the ball. "I expect a lot from him, absolutely. It wasn't a one-day wonder. Kid's large, intelligent," Coach Landsee said.
Intelligent enough to know he's in an enviable position - getting paid to play the game he loves, and enough to know telling his mom that he was right, wouldn't be right. "She can always come back with 'I gave birth to you. I raised you,' and stuff like that, so I try to stay away from the 'I told you so.'" Jenkins said.
Jenkins scored two more touchdowns in the Mustangs' win over in New Orleans on Friday night, March 23rd.
Milwaukee's home opener is Thursday night, March 29th vs. the Pittsburgh Power in the Bradley Center.