Kristian A. Herring
Public Information Officer
For Immediate Release
Friday, September 27, 2013
Former Philadelphia Eagle Heads Football Team at West Edgecombe Middle
Tarboro, N. C. – One would think that after a career in the National Football League (NFL), an individual who chooses to become a teacher would be immediately interested in coaching football. That was not the case for Izel Jenkins, a teacher at West Edgecombe Middle School.
“I played football professionally for seven years and then I coached for a little bit,” said Jenkins. “I got away from coaching and focused on my teaching career. I helped with area football teams by giving suggestions, but that’s all I was interested in doing.”
When the head football coach position became available at West Edgecombe Middle, Jenkins was not initially interested. “I was asked to consider being the head coach,” Jenkins stated. “I gave it some thought and pondered over the fact that I could run my own program and implement things I think will benefit the kids here at West.”
Jenkins explained that the football game has changed and evolved. “There is a different defense used in national football today. People think it’s too complicated and it can’t be done saying ‘It’s too hard. The kids won’t be able to do it.’ But my philosophy is: if you don’t teach it to them, they can’t learn it.”
This is the reasoning behind Jenkins decision to pursue coaching again.
Jenkins says he enjoys his teaching career and the opportunity to impact the lives of children. “I enjoyed playing in the NFL. However, the nine years I have spent with Edgecombe County Public Schools as an educator brings a different kind of enjoyment.”
Going to the NFL was not in Jenkins’s original goals. “I went to North Carolina State University where I was actually planning to be the Second Lieutenant in ROTC. I was also on a track scholarship and I walked onto the football team. I was told that one day I was going to have to make a big decision between track, ROTC, and Football,” explained Jenkins.
“I was at the park playing basketball when the NFL draft was going on. My girlfriend, who is now my wife, called me and said ‘You just got drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles.’ I didn’t believe it, thinking to myself: How could I get drafted? I only played football for two years,” said Jenkins. He laughed and added “But when I got that call that said ‘Congratulations Izel. We have your plane ticket at RDU. You need to be on the plane to Philly tomorrow.’ I was on the plane the next day.”
Jenkins does not talk to his students much about his days in the NFL; however, he makes connections with students by discussing his middle school times. “Middle school is crucial,” explained Jenkins. “It’s the gateway to success and I want to make the impact on my students that my teachers made on me. I have to give my students a personal experience because a lot of them remind me of myself.”
Davaraeway Pride, a seventh grade student at West Edgecombe Middle School, is also on the football team that Jenkins coaches. “He’s an all-around good man and he’s one of the best teachers I know. He’s teaching me about respect and always helps me in class and on the field,” says Pride.
Seventh grade student and football team member Clifton Richardson described Jenkins as a “life changer.” Richardson expressed that his coach “gets you to change your life around by staying on you to see you succeed. Football is a competitive game and with Coach Jenkins’s help, I’m getting prepared for real life and staying out of trouble.”
Because he was a troubled teen, Jenkins says this fuels his passion for middle school education. “I failed the eighth grade but my teacher changed my life. This teacher introduced me to the Boys and Girls Club which, in turn, introduced me to sports,” Jenkins says. “I was even cut from the middle school football team. This is why I love what I do.”