After a short absence from Tucson, senior running back Daniel Jenkins made the decision to return to Arizona to end his career as a Wildcat. It was a decision that came easy after both prayer and meetings with coaches.
“I knew I wanted to be back here because I wanted to finish out my career being a Wildcat here at Arizona,” Jenkins explained. “It was a chance to come back and finish things where I started.”
Since redshirting his freshman year in 2009, Jenkins has provided the Wildcats with versatility and depth in the running back and slot receiver positions as well as special teams.
“I’ve worked on my versatility since my freshman year – being able to catch, being able to run the ball, my vision, my speed, my strength,” Jenkins said. “I’m really happy with where I’m at right now. I know I can still improve on every aspect of my game, but I definitely want to be looked at as a versatile player.”
Fellow teammate and childhood friend, Terrence Miller, appreciates Jenkins’ ability to adapt to any place on the field wherever the Wildcats may need him.
“He’s a great running back, he can catch passes, and do things on special teams as well so he’s a very versatile guy,” Miller describes. “Daniel has always been a physical specimen. Physically, he’s well-built and has that speed.”
A bigger job for Jenkins is being seen as a leader to the team. In his fifth year at Arizona, marking his final season as a Wildcat, Jenkins provides the team with the necessary leadership of a true veteran.
“Being looked at in the spotlight of a leader is always difficult because you’re looked up to from your peers to set an example and do the right thing,” Jenkins explained. “There’s a responsibility aspect there and there is pressure from your coaches to try to be the older guy and lead by example and to have a voice of opinion to the team that can lead the guys. It’s a big responsibility. I enjoy it because I want to make an impact on the younger players so when I leave I can pass the torch onto them.”
Miller sees the impact that Jenkins’ leadership brings to the team, especially those new to the program.
“He brings heart, hard-working ability, that good work ethic that you look for in leaders,” Miller said. “He’s a very vocal guy. He’s one of those guys that knows the program and can help out with the younger guys that come in.”
Being viewed as a leader doesn’t only speak to the character of Jenkins, but it also allows the senior to see himself in a different light.
“It’s a great aspect of me as a player because it keeps in line as far as doing the right thing and living the right way,” Jenkins explained. “Having the ability to lead sets you apart differently because there are a lot of people that are in programs for a long time, but they may not have the same respect from their peers because they haven’t done the right things over a long period of time.”
With Pac-12 in full swing, Jenkins has put together both his physical skills with his leadership mentality, syncing the two in a lifestyle that has already proven successful for the versatile player. Although his Arizona career will soon come to an end, his lifestyle will last beyond his final season as a Wildcat.
“I try to look at football and life separately but really it’s the same thing that bonds the two together – my faith in God,” Jenkins said. “I really try to strive for excellence every day, on and off the field. When I step on the field, it’s not ‘let me try to score these touchdowns’ or ‘let me make these great plays so I can have people saying my name.’ It’s just to honor God and keep improving. I’m really strong and spiritually grounded. That’s how I was raised.”
With seven regular season conference games left, Jenkins is grateful for the opportunity to end his career where it first began. After five years, Arizona is home.
“It’s going to mean a lot to me ending my career as a Wildcat,” said Jenkins. “I’ve been through a lot during my time here, going to school. I feel like I’ve grown as a person tremendously. I’ve had to grow up fast. I was 17 when I came here. It’s going to be crazy moving on from here, but I’m looking forward to the future.”