Perhaps it simply was the randomness of the allocation process that landed Alex Jenkins on the New Orleans Saints practice squad.
Each of the four NFC South Division teams this season was allowed to carry an additional overseas player on its practice squad as part of a new International Player Pathway program. And Jenkins, a 6-foot-6, 270-pound defensive end who was raised in Bath, England, before playing three seasons at the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio, was designated for assignment with the Saints.
Whatever method was used to make it reality, Jenkins understands the good fortune it is to have been a Saint this season. He understands the privilege and pleasure it has been to watch defensive end Cam Jordan turn in one of the best defensive seasons in franchise history.
Jordan is a first-team All-Pro and NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate, an elite disruptor who had a career-high 13 sacks, 11 passes defensed, 28 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, 62 tackles, an interception that he caught in the end zone for a touchdown – the triple play of pass defended, pick and score – and another handful of penalties that he caused.
The last Saints defensive lineman to be named All-Pro was La’Roi Glover in 2000.
And he didn’t slow down in the Wild Card Game against Carolina: A sack, a tackle for loss, two quarterback hits, two passes defensed and a critical intentional grounding penalty that he forced on Carolina’s last offensive possession. Entering Sunday’s Divisional playoff game against the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Jordan leads the Saints’ improved defense back to the site of the team’s regular-season opening loss.
For Jenkins to have a front-row seat has been an opportunity to learn nuances and techniques that have led to Jordan receiving national recognition that, likely, long has been overdue. And it has been a chance to see the relentlessness of the 6-4, 287-pound Jordan up close and personal.
“I think it’s his energy,” Jenkins said. “He’s got great energy about him at practice, he’s always got a high motor, he’s always encouraging us guys to pick up the tempo at practice. A lot of technique things I’ve learned off him; he’s very blunt and to the point with the way he plays and the way he shows young guys how to play.
“It’s really benefited me. Personally, I feel like my development has sky-rocketed, probably because of him and some of the other guys as well on the line, who have been mentoring me through this process. I’m really grateful that I got to be a part of a team that has such a great player like Cam.”
So, too, have other teammates taken note of Jordan’s significance.
“Cam is a great teammate,” said rookie defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, New Orleans’ sixth-round pick this season. “He’s a people person. He’s got a different character than most guys that are on a level that he is. He’s real humble and it means a lot. You see him around here in the locker room; he’s very outgoing. He treats everybody the same. He treats you as if you were really one of his family members.”
“He’s really just a big effort guy, play in and play out,” defensive tackle Tyeler Davison said. “Not many people can say that. Not only is he high on effort, but he’s also really talented. There’s not very many people that have that combination, talent and effort and want-to. He has it, and I think that’s what makes him special.”
That, and a heart that may be as outsized as his personality.
No Saints player spends more time in the community than does Jordan. Tuesday, the NFL “off” day during the regular season, is “on” for Jordan, who usually is visiting a school and speaking to students, or dropping by a hospital. Or, during the Christmas season, he hosted Morton’s The Steakhouse’s annual Celebrity Servers Dinner. Proceeds benefited the Where There’s a Will There’s a Way Foundation, which was founded by the late Will Smith, a former Saints great, and the Irving Morris Foundation, whose mission is to help those in need have access to the basic necessities of food, water, shelter and education.
Jordan is the Saints’ nominee this season for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. The honor annually is given to a player who represents the best of the NFL’s commitment to philanthropy and community impact.
“He does so much on and off the field, it’s incredible,” Muhammad said. “He’s a great dude, he’s a good role model. He’s a good dude to follow behind, because he does it the right way. And that’s hard.
“Actually, with him playing for so long and being in the year he’s in, and still able to be humble and just look out (for you) – anything you need, any questions you have, he’s willing to help you with, no problem. That just says a lot about who he is as a person.”
Said Jordan: “They know if they need something, come to me. Whatever it is, if I’ve gone down that avenue or even if I haven’t gone down that specific avenue, if they need help on it, whether it’s in football or out of football, I can always try to help guide them in some way. I’m here to be whatever you need to be for this defense, whatever you need to be for my teammates.”
He has been all of that for the Saints this season, and seasons past.
And, likely, all feel pretty fortunate that that has been the case.