The San Francisco 49ers chose wide receiver A.J. Jenkins in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Jenkins, who played for the East Team in the 2012 East-West Shrine Game®, had a standout year for the University of Illinois. He was also named to All-Big Ten first team in 2011. “A.J. is a real powerhouse, and we knew he would make it to the NFL,” said East Team Manager Carson Hanks.
Hanks describes Jenkins as quiet, focused, hard-working and very coachable, “A.J. personifies the caliber of players showcased in the East-West Shrine Game,” said Hanks. In addition to his on-field accomplishments, in 2011 he was named Academic All-Big Ten for a third consecutive season.
“Talent, character, and smarts” are the qualities that San Francisco’s Head Coach Jim Harbaugh says make for what the 49ers call a Gold Helmet player. “We’re really excited about the pick. He’s a heck of a football player – fast, big hands, strong, and tough. He was the guy we wanted. We’re glad to be able to get someone this explosive and talented.”
Six feet tall and 192 pounds, Jenkins was a two-year starter for the Fighting Illini. He caught 90 passes for 1,276 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011. San Francisco’s scouts were impressed throughout the season with his route running ability and competitive nature. They were also impressed with his performance in the East-West Shrine Game.
“A.J. had two excellent days of practice in front of the scouts leading up to our game. He really stood out and I think it helped him,” said Harold Richardson, executive director of the East-West Shrine Game. “Everything about him said he is the right kind of guy to go on to the next level. I’m really excited that he went so early. We’re interested in players who have a chance to make it in the NFL. With 53 players from the 2010 game on active NFL rosters and another 17 on practice squads, we’ve been pretty successful inviting top-tier players to play in our game.”
“From the first day of practice we were impressed with A.J.’s speed and ability,” said East Team Head Coach Bobby Ross. “With his speed, talent, and toughness I really think he is the kind of player who can play inside or outside receiver and contribute on special teams, if they choose to use him there. I really think he’ll have an immediate impact for the 49ers. I’m just delighted for him, and I think it shows the level of talent the East-West Shrine Game attracts.”
“Honestly I didn’t know where I was going to end up,” said Jenkins, reacting to his first round selection. “I’m honored and I’m blessed for the opportunity. I had no idea I was going to go this early. This is going to be a tremendous opportunity for me and my family to come to California and play for a great organization, a great coaching staff. I’m ready to get out there today and start working.”
About the East-West Shrine Game
The East-West Shrine Game is the longest-running college all-star football game in the country and features some of the highest-rated players in the projected NFL draft ranking. While the teams are divided by East and West, the players come together for the beneficiary of the event, Shriners Hospitals for Children. Learn more at www.shrinegame.com.
(Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers)