The 49ers selection of A.J. Jenkins with the 30th overall pick of the NFL Draft on Thursday night went a little bit under the radar when it comes to the NFC West, overshadowed a bit by the Seahawks controversial selection of defensive end Bruce Irvin, the Rams selection of highly touted defensive tackle Michael Brockers, and the Cardinals selection of receiver Michael Floyd to pair with Larry Fitzgerald. The Jenkins pick, though it got a little less fan fare, has the possibility of making a huge impact on the Niners' offense in 2012.
Jenkins is an explosive and speedy downfield threat out of Illinois that will have Niner fans having visions of Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace, as a vertical threat for Alex Smith that has been missing the last couple of years. He'll augment an offense that already features Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, and Frank Gore.
Jenkins spoke to reporters on Friday, and shared some of his thoughts on the draft process and his chance to play in San Francisco. Take a look at a transcript after the jump...
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh:
"A.J. Jenkins, then I'll slide away and let you talk to him. But, we're just really excited. He's excited. We're excited. Just wanted to say I'm really happy for you, for your family that this is happening to you. This is a great step in a journey and a lot of hard work. This guy has been working his tail off, not only in high school and college but look at what he's done over the last four months. He's played in two all-star games, East/West, the Senior, Combine. He's done his own personal workout at Illinois and then he probably had about eight or 10 teams that came in and gave him workouts. He even had a workout on 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning for a team. So, he's not afraid of competition. He's not afraid to work, great humility. He's going to be graduating on May 13th. So, we're excited as well. And selfishly we have a great investment in A.J. and for our football team. We hope you have a great career. Congratulations."
A.J., has it sunk in yet? Yesterday you were pretty shocked and pretty excited. What have these hours after you've been selected, what have they been like for you?
"Well, I haven't slept yet. I'm still up but right now I'm trying to just embrace the moment. I'm very proud to be here in San Francisco. I'm humbled and blessed and I'm just honored to be here. I'm just happy and excited and I'm ready to get to work."
What was your travel like to get here?
"I left this morning at six in the morning and I got here around 10:30 a.m. with the time change."
Out of Jacksonville?
"Yeah, out of Jacksonville, yeah."
You're from Jacksonville, obviously a state full of great college football programs. How did you get to Illinois? And was there a lot of pressure to stay around and go to the University of Florida, Florida State, those which aren't too far away from Jacksonville?
"Right. I had a lot offers from out of high school. I had like maybe 80 offers. Florida was a big-time recruit on me. Miami, Florida State or whatnot. But when I took a visit up there in Illinois, it was just the people that were there. It was just the feeling that I had. It was like a family vibe. Everything went well and I just felt like it was like at home. I just felt good."
Did you get criticism for it from the people at home that you would go out of state instead of staying local?
"Yeah, definitely I got criticism. This guy's not going to make it. But I just fueled off that kind of stuff. It didn't bother me at all."
I understand there was a problem. Part of your house was broken, a door or something? Can you share that story?
"Well, my cousin previously had called me in the middle of the first round and I thought it was a team. So, I answered the phone, but it was my cousin. He was playing a game on me. And then I set my phone back down and I went to the bathroom and San Fran had called me. So, I guess this time he was serious. The boy who cried wolf I guess, so I didn't really believe him. So, I'm in the bathroom still and he kicked the door down, like literally on the floor. And he threw me the phone. So, that is probably going to be my first present to buy my mom a new bathroom door. That'll be the first one."
When the door fell down did you know this might be serious?
"Yeah because he's a goofy dude, laid back, so I was like, Oh OK, all right and I answered."
What's his name?
"His name is George. George Solomon is his name."
Coach gave you a quiz, a football history quiz. He wants to see how much you know about the game of football. And you said you were a Jaguars fan, you watched former Jaguars WR Jimmy Smith over the years. What current receiver in today's game do you model yourself, do you see yourself similar to?
"I don't like making comparisons. That's not really me, but I look up to a lot of receivers in the league, like [Lions WR] Calvin Johnson, [Cardinals WR] Larry Fitzgerald, [49ers WR] Randy Moss, for instance, [49ers WR Michael] Crabtree and whatnot. But, there are a lot of great receivers that are in this league and I'm just trying to fit into where I can get in."
What was it like meeting former 49ers WR Jerry Rice at the Bowl Game for you?
"It kind of was unreal. It was kind of one of the things you never think you're really going to do. I didn't really think I was going to do that. They told me there was a chance that he was going to be there, but me actually seeing him in person it kind of made me like, wow that's Jerry Rice. That's the best receiver in the league and I'm shaking his hand and talking to him and everything. So, it was a good thing."
What is something that you learned at Illinois under Head Coach Ron Zook that you'll take with you to the NFL?
"Adversity. I think we went through a lot of adversity during my four years there. And I think me being a team player we got through some things with the coach changes. And consecutively we had maybe like three staffs in the past four years since I was there. So, it was always something. So, I think that'll probably be the best thing I'd probably take away from it."
One thing that Zook said today on the radio is that you might need to get bigger or stronger and more physical in your game. Do you agree with that and do you have a target weight that you want to hit at some point?
"I want to get better as my overall game, but obviously I do want to gain some more weight. I do want to get stronger and faster and everything. But there's not really like one area where I want to focus my game on. I want to get better just all around."
When will you be able to come out here fulltime?
"I graduate May 13th so I'll be out here as soon after that, like May 14th maybe. So, I'll be out here the day after."
Your wide receiver coach picked you up at the airport this morning. What was it like being with Coach Morton and then also meeting the players and the coaches around the building and stuff?
"Well, I ran into his arms. I ran into his arms like a big kid. I was honored to see him again. It's a dream come true. This kid came from Jacksonville, Florida, away from Terry Parker High School, now I'm playing for San Francisco. That's a dream, so words can't really describe that feeling."
When you came out here, did you see video cutups? Did you see what they ask the receivers to do in this game?
"No, most of the time I was meeting with him, Coach Morton. We were just talking about my film and breaking me down. That's pretty much what it was, but I haven't watched any film on them yet."
What makes you, I think [49ers General Manager] Trent Baalke talked yesterday about your versatility, that you can play X, Z, you can play the slot. What enables you to do that? What about you lends yourself to that kind of versatility?
"Honestly I've been doing it since I was in high school, that's why I'm natural at doing it. I've been doing it since grade school playing ball outside. Didn't really matter where I was at, just as long I was out on the field."
A.J. did you get to know some of the other wide receivers during the draft process, maybe at the combine, and did you hear from any of them last night?
"Yeah, I heard from a lot of receivers. I can't really pick out one in particular. [WR at Michigan State] B.J. Cunningham is one of my good friends, [WR at Georgia Tech] Stephen Hill (is) one of my good friends, [WR at Ohio State] Devier Posey, [WR at Wisconsin] Nick Toon, [RB at Florida] Chris Rainey, I have my fair share of texts last night."
And Hill was one of them that visited the 49ers if I'm correct. Did you guys wonder who was going to get picked in this slot?
"No I didn't."
Did both of you have faith it might happen?
"No I didn't talk to him during the draft process. We were both so busy. I was traveling so much and doing all of these workouts and everything, so I didn't talk to him about that."
What is your major?
"My major is in sports management."
Is there one game or one catch in particular that you made in college that you are most proud of?
Let's say both. What one game and what one catch are you most proud of?
"Well I mean, I think the most game I had was vs. Northwestern last year. I had broke the school record in everything, in yards, catches and touchdowns. One catch, probably would say back in my freshman year we played Minnesota. It was the first time that my mom and my dad went to a home game and I scored two touchdowns, but there was one particular touchdown catch that I really remember well."
Tell me about it?
"It was, I can't remember the play, it was four years ago. It was like a post and [Former Illinois QB Isiah John] Juice Williams at the time was the quarterback. He just through it up for grabs and I just came down with it. I don't know how, I just through my hands up in the air and just caught it."
How many yards?
"Maybe about 50 yards, maybe. Something like that."
When you were selected yesterday a lot of people were surprised, yourself included. You know, who's A.J. Jenkins? Since then, there's a story coming out of St. Louis that the Rams were ready to strike, to get you at 33. When you hear that now, does it all make sense that you were highly regarded around the league, maybe even more so than you figured you would be?
"Well, my agent told me last night that I might go first. He kind of already warned me. So, it wasn't a total surprise, but it was just a surprise phone call just being drafted. But he told me the Rams wanted me to get picked really early in the second round. But also at the same time he kind of already warned me late first might be a possibility for me to get drafted."
Your last college game was played in San Francisco. Now you already know what it's like to be in San Francisco. Have you liked the Bay Area at all?
"Yeah, I did. This is my first time being out here in California, going down to the good seafood restaurants you guys have. I'll get some tours around the city. So, it's a nice city."
Who do you think was the best defensive back you played against in college?
"The best one probably had to be Vontae Davis, my own teammate."
"Yeah, back in my freshman year."
How'd you do against him?
"I did real good. I did really good."
Obviously number 8 is a number you can't wear, but you chose 17. Any reason you chose 17?
"Because one plus seven is eight."
When you got here, obviously you noticed there's a little bit of construction going on. Has it all sunk in at all that you'll be playing in a new stadium, helping break that thing in in a couple of years?
"I'm trying to just breathe in the moment right now in the press conference. I haven't even thought about that. I'm just trying to take this in right now. So, I'm just excited to be here but I haven't really thought about it. I'm just happy right now. I'm really excited right now."