MERIDEN — While growing up, the Boys & Girls Club of Meriden had a big impact on John Jenkins. Now, as he turns 25, the New Orleans Saints nose tackle will be back in the Silver City to provide some payback.
Jenkins was en route to his hometown on Thursday. Tonight, to celebrate his birthday and raise money for the Boys & Girls Club of Meriden, he’ll host the “Never Forget Where You Came From Birthday Celebration” at Ruby Tuesday’s at Westfield Mall.
Party doors will be open from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. There is no admission.
To benefit the Boys & Girls Club, attendees should bring a big appetite. Twenty percent of the food tab will be donated to the club. (Drinks are not included; a coupon that can be used all weekend at Ruby Tuesday’s will be accepted.)
“I hope it is a great success and they raise a lot of money for the Boys and Girls Club,” said Shane Weeks of Ruby Tuesday’s. “I think it’s great and I think more non-profit organizations should take advantage of this. I look forward to meeting John. We are happy to host this event and Ruby Tuesday’s is always looking for ways to give back to the community.”
Jenkins came up with the idea with longtime acquaintance Cesar Gonzalez, the assistant director of the Boys & Girls Club.
“I was talking to John and he wanted to do something for the club,” Gonzalez said. “This club has meant a lot to John over the years.”
Now, Gonzalez noted, the 6-foot-3, 359-pound Jenkins is someone that current members of the Boys & Girls Club look up to in more ways than one.
“He’s a kid from inner-city Meriden and, with all of the success he has had, he really is a mentor,” Gonzalez said. “It really shows if you strive to reach your goals, the possibilities are endless.”
It was only five years ago that Jenkins graduated from Maloney High School. He went on to play two seasons at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. In February 2011, in a ceremony at Maloney, Jenkins committed to the University of Georgia, where he was a standout defensive lineman in his junior and senior seasons.
It led him to the 2013 NFL Draft. In the third round, the New Orleans Saints called his name.
Jenkins had 21 tackles in his rookie season. He played in all 16 games, starting five.
“We all followed him through his career at Georgia to the pros,” Gonzalez said. “I remember when I was the same height as John.”
His second pro season is on the horizon. Training camp starts on July 24, first in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia and later in Metairie, Louisiana.
Not long ago, camp meant heading downtown to the Boys and Girls Club. Jenkins clearly has not forgotten.