Malcolm Jenkins is a rising NFL star. At 26, the All-Pro defensive back has already reached his sport’s pinnacle as a member of the 2009 Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. Twice named a defensive captain, his leadership qualities are well documented and led the Philadelphia Eagles to making him their primary free-agent target this offseason. Trading in his black and gold for green and black, he now looks to help bring the Eagles an elusive championship title.
Jenkins is a dedicated leader and learner, but his impact on the field is also rivaled by his charitable giving off it. Recognizing his position as an athlete to create social good, he founded the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation in 2010 to improve the lives of youth.
“We have a unique opportunity as athletes to impact people, especially youth who look up to us,” Jenkins said in a recent interview.
Through initiatives like free youth football camps, scholarship grants, and surprise holiday dinner donations, Jenkins has become a community pillar in New Orleans. But his giving doesn’t stop there. From his hometown of Piscataway, New Jersey, to his days as an Ohio State Buckeye in Columbus, to his latest stop in the City of Brotherly Love, building character and success in youth has becoming part of his identity.
“I’m surprised how far I’ve come as an individual. When I came out of high school I couldn’t have written this out. I see the impact that people like my parents, my high school football coaches, and all the people who brought me up had on me on a daily basis, and I know I can impact others.”
He did exactly that during the first year of his youth football camp, challenging a troubled, talented teenage boy to a one-on-one competition. If the teen – while being covered by Jenkins – could catch two out of three passes thrown his way, Jenkins would give him the cleats off his feet. If not, the teen would have to do the same.
He caught two.
“The impact that had on him was night and day. His high school coaches told me he became a leader and his confidence went up. He came to camp the next year and he was that leader, he was getting guys lined up and teaching them.”
This year around 400 kids will participate in Jenkins’ New Jersey camp, meaning there’ll be ample opportunity to create more life-changing moments. And thanks to a new foundation partnership, this year’s camp participants will receive vouchers for free NFL-grade concussion tests. It’s just one of the many ways that Jenkins is pairing with existing platforms to make the largest impact possible. It’s a smart approach, and one that perfectly aligns with All Sports United’s ideal of sports philanthropies working together. As a result, Jenkins is a finalist for All Sport United’s 2014 Humanitarian Award.
“I know first-hand how athletes working together for a common cause is the best and the right thing to do. There’s strength in numbers and working together can take your efforts even further in a more significant way and impact more people.
“I remember when two of my former Saints colleagues came up with the idea to partner with the United Way to start a program (Hope for the Holidays) to build homes for families in New Orleans displaced by Hurricane Katrina. United Way helped to identify partners to match funds players contributed and donate supplies. The first year, two homes were built. I joined the effort and donated funds the following year, along with three more players and that year we built four homes. The year after that, we built eight and up-to-date over 15 homes have been built. It’s a good feeling to help to provide a place for the displaced families to call home again.”
There is no doubt that athletes can come together to great things. Still, the time-demanding nature of being a professional athlete is a deterrent for those interested in undertaking philanthropic activities. To balance being the best he can be on and off the field, Jenkins says it takes a team and it takes planning. He points to his mom, the president of his foundation, for putting his ideas into action, and takes the same approach to charity as he does to football.
“Have the same effort you’d put into your preparation for your game and put it into the preparation for your philanthropy.”
As Jenkins looks to improve existing programs he already has in place, he looks forward to making new partnerships that will extend their reach into new cities. In July, his foundation will begin a new partnership with Feed the Children, and it’s sure to be as successful as his other causes.
With a long list of accomplishments behind him and still a bright future to come, look for Jenkins to continue leading on the field and in the community for years to come.
Malcolm Jenkins is a finalist for the 2014 All Sports United Humanitarian Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy, with final voting and the award presentation scheduled to take place on June 23, 2014 at a private ceremony in Chicago, IL. The winner will receive a feature story here on AllSportsUnited.org and donated services from our provider partners worth over $100,000. All Sports United is still accepting donations to support all of the finalists’ charities in association with our campaign partner GivKwik. Please support the campaign with whatever you can afford at our “All Stars of Giving” campaign website at www.givkwik.com/ASU. Your tax-deductable donation will support all of these fine causes. Continue to visit AllSportsUnited.org for profiles of each finalist in the days leading up to the award presentation.
- Special to All Sports United
Correspondent Anthony Baldini