Jenkins gets his NFL rookie horns

Former FLC QB inks deal with Rams

Former Fort Lewis quarterback Tim Jenkins went from avoiding sacks at the FLC spring game to rubbing elbows with Sam Bradford, signing a free-agent deal with the St. Louis Rams on Monday. Enlarge photo

Shaun Stanley/Durango Herald file photo

Former Fort Lewis quarterback Tim Jenkins went from avoiding sacks at the FLC spring game to rubbing elbows with Sam Bradford, signing a free-agent deal with the St. Louis Rams on Monday.

Hurdle No. 1 has been cleared, getting smaller and smaller in the rearview as the dream drives on.

Time to see if there’s enough gas in the tank to knock off an even bigger benchmark.

Former Fort Lewis College quarterback Tim Jenkins impressed enough at rookie minicamp last weekend to be offered a free agent contract by the St. Louis Rams, which he signed Monday. He’ll enter organized team activities as one of four quarterbacks on the roster, alongside starter Sam Bradford and backups Austin Davis and Kellen Clemens.

If you have an image in your mind of Jenkins getting the call from his agent and running around the house screaming excitedly, think again. After a few days of late-night playbook studying followed by 5 a.m. wakeup calls for drills, Jenkins was asleep Saturday when his agent attempted to give him the good news.

“It was a good thing to wake up to,” Jenkins said with a laugh.

“It was probably the best Mother’s Day gift to call and tell my mom I’m not going to be home for Mother’s Day now, but I’m signing a deal Monday.”

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jenkins was one of 26 players in the rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. As of Monday afternoon, he was one of just six to be offered a free-agent deal. The Rams, however, had only 81 players under contract entering the minicamp, nine short of the 90-player limit, according to the report.

The weekend consisted of a lot of 1-on-1 and 7-on-7 drills, Jenkins said – and a lot of playbook studying in a brief window.

“I think they were seeing how much of the playbook we can handle,” he said.

Jenkins fought injuries his senior year and played in just six games, in which he completed 161 of 301 passes for 1,817 yards and eight touchdowns with eight interceptions. But he finished third in school history with 8,857 passing yards, fourth with 47 touchdown passes and second in completion percentage at .583.

Now, Jenkins likely is battling Clemens for a spot with the Rams. St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in February that second-year man Davis likely will be behind Bradford on the depth chart. That leaves Clemens, entering his ninth season, and Jenkins to battle for the No. 3 spot. In his career, Clemens has started eight times and appeared in 30 games, throwing for 2,271 yards, seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

For now, Jenkins simply is trying to learn as much as possible.

“I’m trying to be a sponge and soak up as much information as I can from those guys,” he said. “Because the system is going to be way different (than in college).”

The former Skyhawk had a pretty quick turnaround in what’s been a whirlwind few days. He said the quarterbacks had a morning meeting, then did some a bit of on-field work. At that point, Jenkins got his first bit of rookie initiation. Not that he minds much. He’s just trying to make the most of his time.

“They were doing a throw-on-the-run drill, and I had to chase everybody,” Jenkins said.

“Now being the fourth quarterback, you’ve got to do as much as you can with the time you have. ... It’s great when you do get a rep, get a rep in the National Football League.”

Now, it’s all about settling in. Jenkins will be back in Colorado briefly to pick up some personal belongings this weekend before jetting back to St. Louis, back to a different world from his Division II experience. After all, the budgets are a bit different.

“There’s Gatorades in every room, and if you need new cleats, you get new cleats. ... I think I’m a lot more thankful for it coming from a smaller school,” he said.

Despite those changes, being an under-contract player in the NFL still hasn’t sunk in yet for the former FLC signal caller. Then again, maybe that first big OTA or the start of training camp or, if everything falls right, that first regular-season practice will jar that particular response.

Until then, it’s the same old Tim.

“This is my goal since I’ve been a little kid. ... So you feel like you’re going to feel all different, but I still feel like the Tim who stepped on the field freshman year at Fort Lewis,” he said.

rowens@durangoherald.com