From last to first: Jenkins answers Coach Kelly’s call for leadership

LSU Football
Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 7:49 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (KALB) - Before the 2022 season began, first-year LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly had a simple message for senior receiver Jaray Jenkins during a press conference.

“I wish he would take more of a leadership role,” said Coach Kelly. “You’re hearing me Jaray? Can you hear me? We need that leadership, and it comes from consistency.”

Out of the Tigers’ starting receivers, including Malik Nabers, Kayshon Boutte, Brian Thomas Jr., Kyren Lacy and Jack Bech, Jenkins is the only senior. It did not take long for the former Jena Giant to answer his coach’s call as in the Tigers’ opening game against Florida State, Jenkins caught two touchdown passes, including what would have been the game-tying score as time expired if it was not for a blocked extra point.

Through 11 games in 2022, Jenkins ranks first on the team in touchdown receptions with five and third in receiving yards.

“I’ve seen a lot of growth,” said Coach Kelly on Jenkins following LSU’s win over UAB. “I think it’s maturity and taking on responsibilities.”

That responsibility was getting the Tigers back to title contention. As a redshirt freshman in 2019, Jenkins watched from the sidelines as the most prolific offense in school history captured a national title. However, after going 5-5 in 2020 and 6-7 in 2021 and losing teammates like Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase to the NFL, Jenkins emerged as the reliable target in the team’s biggest moments.

“He was one of those leaders that were part of taking this team from last to first in one year,” said Coach Kelly. “Literally, last to first, so that’s big.”

Jenkins’ contribution helped the Tigers clinch a spot in the SEC Championship for the first time since 2019.

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