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Malcolm Jenkins set to lend helping hand to New Orleans Saints, and to New Orleans

Photos of safety Malcolm Jenkins during his first stint with the New Orleans Saints and his time with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Photos of safety Malcolm Jenkins during his first stint with the New Orleans Saints and his time with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The New Orleans Saints have need of the football player.

New Orleans has need of the man.

Each will receive as much of safety Malcolm Jenkins as Jenkins can give, and he has shown the ability effectively to pour himself into both a team and a community.

Jenkins' return to the Saints – he agreed to terms on a four-year contract – brings him back to the NFL franchise that drafted him (first round, No. 14 overall, in 2009), helped him win his first Super Bowl (XLIV, in 2009) and was the point of origin for the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation.

"Kind of feels like everything is coming full circle," said Jenkins, who was with New Orleans from 2009-13, then with the Eagles from 2014-19, before agreeing to terms with the Saints as an unrestricted free agent.

"Obviously, with the success that the team has had in the last few years, being able to come back and just help push the team that one more step that I think it needs to be back in that Super Bowl again," Jenkins said. "New Orleans is family. I still have a place down there. My second daughter's middle name is 'Nola,' because I love that place. I'm excited to be back in the community, my foundation has maintained our programs in New Orleans over the last six years. It feels like I'm coming back home."

"Home" will receive a more mature player.

In 71 games (63 starts) with the Saints, Jenkins had 394 tackles, six interceptions, seven sacks, 38 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries and was named All-Pro in 2010. With the Eagles, he was a three-time Pro Bowler that totaled 96 starts, with 682 tackles, 11 interceptions (four returned for touchdowns), 77 passes defensed, six fumble recoveries, 11 forced fumbles and three sacks.

"I think I've grown tremendously, mainly because I think I've figured out what it is that I do best, and what roles that is," Jenkins said. "And I think I have a better understanding of how to do that in a defense, and coaches, I think, have allowed me to gel in that role. I think I've grown a lot just from learning the game, but also learning myself."

The free agency process was a quick one for Jenkins, who said he knew exactly what he wanted and where he wanted to be.

"For me, it really wasn't about the highest bidder or anything like that," he said. "I knew I wanted to either stay in Philadelphia, or if I was going to go anywhere else, it was going to be New Orleans. Just because at this point in my career, I want to be near my family, I want to be on a team that can win, and I want to be happy. So for me, this was my first choice, it seemed to be mutual, so no need for me to really wait too much longer.

"We talked very briefly, very surface-level about what kind of defense they're running and things like that. This is a whole different team since I was there. I don't want to come in and try to take over anything or change anything. They've already got it working. So for me, it's just figuring out what's my role, how do I help some of the younger guys develop, how do I support some of the leaders on the team already and master whatever my role is going to be on the team. But I think we've got some time to define what that is."

Jenkins will add veteran leadership in the form of being able to help position teammates defensively.

"I value the role because it helps us win," he said. "Early in my career, it was really knowing the defense and being able to get guys lined up so that we were all on the same page. I think over the years, it's taken the next step to where I'm able to get guys in position to make plays.

"Not just get lined up and run our defense, but to be able to put them in a spot where they can make a play. It's not necessarily just about me or whatever. We're a lot more successful when you've got guys – not just me – but when you've got a cast of guys that can really manipulate the defense based on what they see, based on what they study, and put teammates in the right position to make plays."

The man that Jenkins has become also will benefit New Orleans. He has evolved into a community leader who was nominated in 2019 for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for the third time. The scholars program in his foundation has awarded more than $128,000 in scholarships in New Orleans; 70 percent of the scholars are first-generation college students.

Jenkins also co-founded the NFL's Players Coalition, designed to help players fight for racial and social equality.

He aggressively will seek to provide assistance in New Orleans in the wake of the coronavirus.

"We started my foundation in New Orleans and have maintained our programs there even though I haven't been there the last six years," he said. "We're still giving out scholarships and doing our food drives, but I think that like any community that we go into, it's really about assessing what the need is.

"And I think that as we deal with the virus, not only from a health standpoint but also financially and how it's really hurting a lot of people – especially in New Orleans, that's a service-based, tourist-based industry – there's going to be some unique ways, some different ways that people need help. So I think the first part is just really analyzing what the issues are and figuring out how myself, or my foundation, or whatever organizations are doing work that's effective and then supporting that."

Photos of safety Malcolm Jenkins during his first stint with the New Orleans Saints and his time with the Philadelphia Eagles.

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