You didn't think Malcolm Jenkins would be sitting by, idly watching the time pass, looking for an endeavor or two to toss himself into, did you?
The former New Orleans Saints (2009-13 and 2020-21) and Philadelphia Eagles (2014-19) safety – a two-time Super Bowl winner (XLIV with the Saints and LII with the Eagles) and three-time Pro Bowler – never was one to idle, whether working to become a standout player or working to promote equality and social justice.
Thus, it was no surprise at all that the newly retired Jenkins was in New Orleans on Wednesday night, physically present as his Malcolm Jenkins Foundation provided 22 scholarships to graduating seniors in conjunction with the College Track New Orleans "Launch to College" event.
In Jenkins' 13-year career, he started 191 of 199 games and totaled 21 interceptions (seven returned for touchdowns), 20 forced fumbles, 11 fumble recoveries (one returned for a touchdown), 13.5 sacks, 51 tackles for loss and 804 solo tackles.
But he retired after last season feeling he'd completed his football mission.
"I think 13 years went into that decision, of playing this game at a high level and accomplishing a ton of things," Jenkins said. "And just feeling like all of the things that the game has given me and taught me, I'm just excited to apply those same lessons in other parts and facets of my life.
"It was a tough decision to come to. When you've been doing something as long as I have and you have an attachment to the fan bases and the teammates and the organizations that you've been a part of, but like (Saints coach) Dennis Allen told me when I met with him, 'You've earned the right to make this decision for yourself.' And for me, I'm just ready to move on."
Jenkins had more left in the tank. In his final season, he started all 16 games he played (he missed one due to Covid protocols; it was the eighth consecutive season he played 16 regular-season games) and had 79 tackles, an interception he returned for a touchdown, five passes defensed, a sack and three tackles for loss.
"I wasn't (out of gas)," he said. "It didn't come down to how I felt on the field or my ability to perform. I was very confident that I have a few years left in me. My body feels great. It's one of those things, know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.
"I've been, luckily, healthy for six, seven, eight seasons in a row. My mind is good, my body feels good, so really it just came down to me as a person – what I want to do with my life, what I want the next chapter to be, what I want my story to be. Football has been a major part of that, and so I'm excited to see what the second act is."
The foundation was an integral part of the first act, and will continue to be integral in the second act.
New Orleans Saints legend Malcolm Jenkins and The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation join College Track leadership and students in celebration of high school seniors continuing on to a four-year college degree and awarding 22 seniors as Malcolm Jenkins Scholars.
"When we first started the foundation back in 2010 here in New Orleans, we had dreams of what we could make it," Jenkins said. "We only could speculate on how many lives we could impact and what we could actually do.
"We've faced many challenges over the years – me leaving the Saints the first time and deciding that we wanted to make sure our program stayed intact, Covid, and all these different things that have happened. And we've been able to maintain our flagship programs in New Orleans, and our scholarships have grown. We've given more than $200,000 in scholarships since its inception.
"So, to me, looking at these occasions, they're an opportunity for us to see the impact of our work, to celebrate these kids who deserve to be celebrated, have worked hard to better themselves and a lot of them are first generation college students. Anybody can cut checks and do things from a distance, but I think time is the best thing you can invest in our kids. In my opinion, they don't need pity parties or anything elaborate. They need investments, and most of that is time and belief. And those are two things I try to give through my foundation."
Jenkins said that, though the context of being a first-generation college student has changed, it still can be a vital step.
"I think for us to be, in 2022, still celebrating first-generation college students in a time when the national debate is about if college is even necessary, college being unaffordable, and we're celebrating kids who are at risk and they're the first generation," he said. "It kind of gives the proof of just how wide the gap is when you talk about opportunity.
"But for these particular kids, they are trailblazers. When you talk about boot-strappers, people who make it out of their circumstances off of their sheer will and ability to embrace and learn and move forward, these are shining examples of those. So we celebrate them, we support them in their next journey.
"I've taken journeys as an athlete where the doors that you go into, no one else in your family or your immediate circle has navigated, so you go into this world and pave a way for yourself. Hopefully, we've prepared them enough to do that. We're proud of them, we're excited to see what they do and it's been one of the things that we love to celebrate."
Meanwhile, the retiree continues to have plenty to do.
"I'm pretty busy, doing things with more of those creative muscles," he said, smiling. "Doing a lot of writing, got into working with our production company and we have some things that are under production. And then, just spending time with my kids. I've got time on my hands, but everybody knows I have time so it gets packed up pretty quickly."