PLAQUEMINE — Plaquemine defensive tackle Nelson Jenkins said he couldn’t have envisioned a better conclusion to his recruiting process.
Jenkins issued a commitment to LSU more than 10 months ago, and the 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive lineman followed through on his word, signing with the Tigers during a ceremony Wednesday morning in the school’s gymnasium.
“Growing up in Louisiana, all you know is LSU football and the New Orleans Saints,” Jenkins said. “It’s really awesome to sign and officially be a LSU Tiger.”
Jenkins followed a similar journey from the Iberville Parish school to LSU as former Tigers standout defensive lineman Davon Godchaux, now in the defensive line rotation with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.
Despite a season-ending knee injury in the first game of his senior season, Godchaux signed with LSU, where he played for three years before turning pro and becoming a fifth-round draft choice.
Jenkins, a first-team All-District 6-4A and All-Metro selection in 2016 with 62 tackles, nine tackles for loss and six sacks, sustained a season-ending meniscus tear in the fourth game of Plaquemine’s season against Ouachita.
Jenkins concluded his final season with 26 tackles, six stops behind the line of scrimmage and three sacks.
“They stayed up front and told me I was going to be OK,” Jenkins said of LSU.
LSU had to repel a late charge from SEC Western Division rival Alabama to secure Jenkins’ signature.
Jenkins said Alabama defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, a former LSU defensive line standout, ramped up his recruiting efforts over the past month and tried to get him to take an official visit.
Though the visit never materialized, the circumstances provided Jenkins with greater clarity on his eventual decision to attend LSU.
“They were trying to push me,” he said. “Coach Dunbar kept in contact with me every day. We were starting to build a relationship, but there’s nothing like staying home and going with your favorite team you love.”
In the final analysis, LSU’s proximity hit home, Jenkins said.
“It was kind of hard,” said Jenkins, a three-star prospect and nation’s No. 45-rated defensive tackle by 247 Sports. “There’s really no difference between the two colleges. Both are equal. It was being closer to home is what made a difference for LSU."
Plaquemine coach Paul Distefano said there’s a difference between Jenkins and Godchaux.
“Nelson is quicker off the ball,” he said. “He makes more plays on the back side. He has a good motor, and he’s a perfect fit for (LSU defensive coordinator Dave) Aranda’s defense. I think he has a chance to play right away.”
LSU projects Jenkins as 300-pound defensive end, giving the Tigers the needed size and athleticism in their scheme, Distefano said.
“I’m smart on the field, fast and physical,” Jenkins said of his greatest attributes. “They’ve given me the keys to the car, and I’ve got to learn how to drive it. I’ve got to get after it and go to work.”
Jenkins said his Dec. 8 official visit to LSU, where he was hosted by freshman defensive back and childhood friend Todd Harris of Plaquemine, was the final step in solidifying his choice.
“I felt like I was already on the team; I enjoyed it,” Jenkins said of his official visit. “Coach O’s (Ed Orgeron) building something special, and I would love to be a part of it.”