NFL veteran returns to CMU, speaks to football team on Tuesday
Since graduating from Central Michigan University in 2003, defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins has done plenty of traveling.
Jenkins played with NFL Europe in 2004 with the Cologne Centurions and has played in 169 NFL games with three teams in 12 seasons.
But until Tuesday, Jenkins hadn’t traveled back to Mount Pleasant.
The New York Giants lineman watched most of football practice and spoke to the team after practice.
Jenkins has ties with Head Coach John Bonamego from when the two were with the Green Bay Packers from 2003-05 when Bonamego was the special teams coordinator.
“From day one when I got up there, Bono found me and let me know he was a former Chip,” Jenkins said. “We always had a relationship with each other just from that.”
Jenkins was in Mount Pleasant for the day, before heading back to New Jersey on Wednesday. He said coming back to Mount Pleasant for the first time brought back memories.
“The second I got off the exit and drove down, I saw the hotel there that we used to stay at (before) the games,” Jenkins said. “I remember the walk we used to take down here to get to the (stadium) on gameday, the stadium parking lot, where I got so many tickets for not having a permit.”
Jenkins’ daughter was also at practice with him Tuesday. Jenkins said she was three years old when he graduated and left Mount Pleasant.
“I’ll be interested to drive around and see what the city still looks like,” Jenkins said. “Time flies. I’ll be interested to see some of the old restaurants I used to like, see if they’re still there.”
Bonamego said Jenkins has accomplished a lot in his career, going from a player who didn’t pick up a scholarship until after signing day, to an undrafted free agent to a 13-year veteran.
“Having been in the league for 16 years, guys who make it past three years is pretty rare,” Bonamego said. “Guys that make it to five years, 10 years is really, really rare. He’s a really great representation of not only our football program, but our university, just how he carries himself.”
Jenkins shared his message with the football team as they kneeled in a semi-circle around the 6-foot-2, 305-pound Jenkins after practice. He talked “about appreciating the process,” trusting the coaches and creating good memories.
After watching a few hours of practice, Jenkins said he believes Bonamego is leading CMU in a positive direction. Jenkins said he observed Bonamego throwing passes to players and watched the offensive and defensive lines use techniques he didn’t learn until going into the NFL.
“I really saw him interacting with the kids,” Jenkins said. “(As a) player, you watch how the coaches interact with the kids. A lot of times, if a coach has a good relationship with the players, players will play harder. They’ll respond better for the coaches. I think they’re doing a great job.”