By Julia Kennedy
Most professional athletes aren’t shy about name-dropping their favorite basketball player or football player while they were growing up, citing them as their inspiration and role models for how they got to the professional level of sports.
But not Malcolm Jenkins.
The Philadelphia Eagles safety stopped to talk about inspiration, giving back and why sports create such an incredible platform for positivity. And the first name he dropped? “Mom.”
“When it comes to tough times, I really look at my mom,” Jenkins said on the red carpet at the 2017 ESPY Awards.
After watching his mom, Gwendolyn Jenkins, battle through breast cancer in a seemingly breezy way, Malcolm knew it wasn’t as easy as she made it seem. And yet, she never faltered.
“When I think about the amount of stress she was under, what she was dealing with mentally, and all the chemo, but how she never once flinched – I didn’t even think breast cancer was that serious, because her demeanor was never worried about anything,” he said.
Not only is Gwendolyn a superhero mom. She’s also the president of Malcom’s foundation, The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation. While the foundation focuses on serving youth in under-served communities with life skills and mentoring, Malcolm still finds a way to honor his mom’s strength.
“Every year, Breast Cancer Awareness Month reminds me to be grateful for her and also to be reminded of her strength, her endurance and her grace through all of it,” Malcolm said. “It definitely pushes me forward.”
Gwendolyn’s influence isn’t confined to off-the-field instances. Her strength pushes him to be his best on the field as well.
“Before games, if I’m not feeling juiced up and I’m tired, I ask myself, ‘How dare you be tired when you’ve seen this woman be strong when she had all the excuses to tap out, to be disappointed, to get down?’”
Using sports as an opportunity to grow and learn solid values is something Malcolm believes strongly in.
“There’s not a life lesson that I haven’t learned from football. Whether that be perseverance, endurance, teamwork, leadership, or self-confidence,” Malcolm said. “Especially in football, you get knocked down, and you have to get back up. It’s literally the name of the game.”
Just how his mom inspires him both on and off the field, football’s influence spreads past the goal posts.
“That’s what makes sport so compelling. It unites people; Different communities and different countries. Sports are the thing that everybody can relate to in one way or another.”