This Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011 photo shows former New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins during NFL football training camp in Metairie, La. (AP)
While both his new and former teams were investing in their futures on the first night of the 2014 NFL draft, ex-Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins was infusing money into something else: the college educations of 10 high school seniors from the New Orleans area.
Through his Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, the player donated $2,500 to each of the students -- $25,000 total -- during an event Thursday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome's Club 44.
The donation was part of a program from the foundation known as Project R.E.W.A.R.D.S, or Reinforcing Education With Activities, Recreation and Developmental Supports, which supplements the Urban League of Greater New Orleans' College Track Program. Jenkins' group emphasizes providing mentorship, personal development, leadership, education, life skills, health and recreation to youth in underserved communities.
Jenkins -- a first-round draft pick for New Orleans who helped the franchise win Super Bowl XLIV at the end of his rookie season in 2009 -- was a defensive captain last season for the Saints and ranked among the leaders in tackles, pass breakups and interceptions for a team that was No. 2 against the pass. He chipped in another 2.5 sacks and four tackles behind the line of scrimmage before heading into unrestricted free agency March 11.
The Saints started that day with fewer than $3 million of salary cap space, and they used what little flexibility they had in that figure to reach terms on a six-year, $56 million deal with safety Jairus Byrd, a three-time Pro Bowler out of Buffalo who had earned a reputation as a ball hawk after picking off 22 passes and forcing 11 fumbles throughout his five-season career.
Jenkins, meanwhile, inked a three-year deal worth more than $16 million about an hour after he officially hit the open market.
Nonetheless, despite his move, Jenkins vowed that one of his foundation's goals would continue to be to make a difference in New Orleans.
"Our youth today should have available to them every opportunity to excel and achieve," Jenkins said in a written statement following the awarding of the scholarships. "We are delighted to be a part of the bridge that every youth should have available to them to cross over and meet opportunity."
On a related note, Jenkins has been nominated as a candidate for a Humanitarian of the Year Award. His nomination came under a program sponsored by All Sports United, in which the safety's name was among those of professional athletes offered up as All-Stars of Giving.
Whichever All-Star triumphs in a vote will receive $100,000 for their favorite charity, and Jenkins is hoping for the prize for his foundation. People can vote for Jenkins up to three times a day.
Gleason gets Loyola degree
Former Saints special-teams ace Steve Gleason — an advocate for people fighting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a severe neuromuscular disease he has — received an honorary degree from Loyola University at the school's commencement ceremony Saturday.
Advocate staff photo by RUSTY COSTANZA -- Steve Gleason, center, is awarded an honorary diploma at a Loyola University graduation ceremony at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Flanking Gleason is his wife, Michel Varisco Gleason, bottom, Gleason's mother, Gail Gleason, top center, and Rev. Kevin Wildes, president of Loyola University, top right.
The ceremony was in the very building where he unforgettably blocked a punt on the night the Superdome reopened for the first time after Hurricane Katrina. The degree honored Gleason for teaming up with his wife, Michel, to launch a foundation and initiative dedicated to providing technology, equipment and services to people battling neuromuscular diseases or injuries.
If Twitter is to be believed, Gleason was perhaps responsible for the defining moment of the ceremony when he thanked his wife. He called her "super awesome and super hot" in the process, according to numerous tweets.
The Gleasons have a son, Rivers, who will be 3 in October.