Catching up with Arizona running back Daniel Jenkins

BY foxsports • July 31, 2013

TUCSON, Ariz. -- There were tears of sorrow when senior Daniel Jenkins decided to leave the University of Arizona football program in January to head to Washington State for what he hoped was a new start.

There were tears of joy when he decided to come back, after realizing you can't leave home with unfinished business.

Just how that unfinished business plays out won't be known for several months, but Jenkins, who has already earned his degree in public management and policy, is excited about when he hopes will be a nice final run in an Arizona uniform.

Jenkins hopes to have a larger impact than last year, when he rusehd for 293 yards on 67 carries as the backup to breakout star Ka'Deem Carey. Carey rushed 303 times for 1,929 yards and 23 touchdowns, eventually becoming a consensus All-American.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez has described Carey and Jenkins as co-starters in the backfield, for what it's worth. What's sure is they will motivate each other.

"It's going to be an amazing year," said Jenkins, a 5-foot-9, 199-pound quick and elusive change of pace to Carey's more straight-ahead rushing style.

How amazing we shall see. But he's back and looking as good - physically - as ever, ready to move forward after a taste of something other than Arizona.

"I had no idea I'd be back at Arizona," he said. "It was a testament to my faith and praying a lot about it. It led me to believe this is the right decision. I have a lot of faith in the abilities I've been given." sat down with Jenkins to learn more about him on and off the field prior to Saturday's start of fall camp.

FSAZ: How difficult was it to say goodbye when you left here?

Jenkins: "Oh man, when I left McKale I saw about 50 different people, and people were crying. I came in as a 17-year-old kid. These people saw me grow up. It was very hard. Probably the hardest decision I've had to do this far. And then coming back (to Tucson) was the next hardest thing (telling Washington State he was not going to stay)."

FSAZ: How do you go into your final year of college football, hoping to make an impact?

Jenkins: "It's not even an option for me. It's a necessity. My mindset is the sky is the limit. I'm expecting some major things from myself. I've prepared for that this off-season. I'm staying focused and staying healthy so when I get to the season I can show the world my talent. I feel no one has seen what I have for the four years in college. This is it, so …"

FSAZ: A lot of your success has to do with you but also not entirely, because Ka'Deem Carey had such a great year last year and he's expected to have another. But you're not looking at it like that?

Jenkins: "Absolutely. I'm looking at it with a mindset that I'm competing against myself. I don't think anybody can stop me but myself. I'm not looking at it like this guy or that guy. I'm honestly looking at it like, how can I make myself better?"

FSAZ: That said, you're a good second option. But you don't like that term because you're here to compete. From a coaches' standpoint, Rodriguez is probably thinking I have a good one-two punch. There's no dropoff. Yes?

Jenkins: "I don't know. When I met with coach when I came back he said he felt there was no difference or falloff between the two of us. He's very comfortable with the two of us. He expressed that to me."

FSAZ: Why did you leave in the first place?

Jenkins: "At the time, I just felt it was best for my career. It was for a chance for the best opportunity and we discussed things. We got on the same page and I decided to come back."

FSAZ: How was it being away for a little while?

Jenkins: "I left in early January and spent a couple of months in California and was in Washington from April to the beginning of May. It was about a month. It was good. I felt like I had a chance to reset myself and refocus. I was there doing my own workouts and watching them (Washington State) practice. It was a good experience, but at the end of the day I'm glad I’m back."

FSAZ: You look to be in the best shape of your life.

Jenkins: "Absolutely. I've never weighed this much and in shape. I kept my speed and I'm at 199 pounds and I've gotten stronger. I'm been working my butt off trying to make the best of this last season."

FSAZ: Is it to be more durable?

Jenkins: "It's everything. I want to prepare myself for the next level starting now. That's what my goal is. I'm not going to wait until after the season."

FSAZ: The fact that you're out of school and taking a few classes helps? What are you taking?

Jenkins: "Classes here and there and I was going to start my master's program. I spent a week's time in a master's class and it was going to be too difficult to balance the two (football and classes). I couldn't put my full attention to both with this being my last year. I'll be able to give 110 percent to football come this fall."

FSAZ: How much of a difference is that where you have more time to deal with football issues and the others don't because of class obligations?

Jenkins: "It's big. I'll have more time to meet with coaches and go over film and prepare for the opponent. My mind won't be focused on getting a good grade for a degree. I've already got the degree. It'll be like a job."

FSAZ: You seem to be a good place heading into the season.

Jenkins: "Absolutely. Me being in this environment for four years has given me an edge with the fact that I know what's what and how to control my time and manage things. Everything will come to fruition."

FSAZ: What did you have to say to everyone when you came back?

Jenkins: "It wasn’t difficult in coming back. People were happy to see me … glad I was here. It was hard for me as a man because I try to carry myself with integrity and I'm big on character. But I had to come back and do what's best for me.  It wasn't a case of people asking why I'm coming back. They were happy to see me come back."

FSAZ: Practice begins soon, you're ready to compete?

Jenkins: "In a perfect world the both of us (Carey and Jenkins) will be at the top of our games and we will carry us to a Rose Bowl. In a perfect world, I want to help this team to the best of my ability and give it all I have. I respect his talent just as much as I respect mine."