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A season-long foot injury won't keep defensive end Brandon Jenkins from pursuing his professional dreams.
Jenkins, a senior and the Seminoles' most decorated defender, announced Monday that he would go pro instead of seeking a medical redshirt and return in 2013.
"I think it's time," Jenkins said. "It's been great. I love FSU, I love everybody, I bleed Garnet and Gold. It was a tough decision (and) I feel like my time has been good but I will enter the draft."
Jenkins suffered a Lisfranc foot injury during the Seminoles' season opener against Murray State on Sept. 1. He entered the year as one of the nation's top defensive ends and a first-team All-ACC pick. In three seasons at FSU, Jenkins totaled 116 tackles including 36 1/2 for loss and 21.5 sacks. Entering the 2012 campaign, Jenkins was on the Bednarik (top defender), Camp (top player) and Nagurski (top defender) Award watch lists.
"I am very supportive of Brandon's decision. We had a great talk. It is best for him to go and become an NFL football player, which he most definitely will," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "We were very blessed to have had him here at Florida State. He's one of the great players in Florida State history, but not only that, he's one of the great people in Florida State history. He represented our team and our school with great dignity. I wish him nothing but the best and it was a pleasure to be able to coach him."
Projected by many NFL draft experts as a second-to third-round pick following his junior season in 2011, Jenkins opted to return to FSU for his senior season and complete his degree. Jenkins will graduate in December.
Jenkins fractured the Lisfranc joint complex in his foot during the first half of the Seminoles' opening game, a freak injury that occurred without contact. The initial X-rays were negative but an MRI revealed a fracture to the joint that stabilizes the midfoot. There was no chance of a return for the 2012 season.
"It hurt, not only physically but emotionally. It's hard not going out with the team," Jenkins said. "We complain how hard practice is - I miss it, going out there and getting your body beat up. Life without football is a reality check, you've got to have your backup plans and everything, you've got to get your mind right. I feel like I matured a lot. I'm about to graduate and take things in life and go with it."
In Jenkins' absence, Cornelius Carradine has stepped up in a big way, leading the 'Noles in tackles (69) and sacks (10.5) while working himself up many experts' draft boards. Both Carradine and defensive end Bjoern Werner are rated 19th overall and 10th overall on ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest "Big Board."
Jenkins, a Tallahassee native, said the injury gave him plenty of time to think about his future and he discussed the decision with Fisher in recent weeks, calling it "one of the most emotional times of my life."
"I gave him a hug, he gave me words. He cares about me as an individual, not just a football player. Basically he supports my decision," Jenkins said.
At the start of the year and prior to the injury, the 6-foot-4, 265-pound Jenkins was rated as the No. 44 overall player and the No. 4 overall outside linebacker prospect by NFLDraftScout.net. He has no current rating due to the injury.
Jenkins is still optimistic about being able to prove his worth to the pro scouts. Currently, Jenkins is rehabbing his foot 2-3 times per week. Jenkins will have the stabilizing boot taken off his foot on Nov. 29 and "intense" rehab will begin. He has been able to lift weights during the down time, saying he has added valuable muscle weight since the injury.
"I can't predict anything, so I'm just going as time goes," Jenkins said.
And while no one can predict where Jenkins could land in the draft or whether he'll be ready come evaluation time next year, he says he's ready for the challenge.
"Things you face in life, you can't back down. There are things that you go through that make you stronger and make you better," Jenkins said. "This is a stepping stone to challenge me."