By BOB BAKKEN
DeSoto Times-Tribune Sports Editor
Friday night was a special night at Hernando High School, as a long-time coach and athletic director was given an honor meant from the heart of the school and the community he has invested his life into.
Anthony Jenkins, who coached the Hernando Tigers’ football and track and powerlifting teams, later to become athletic director at the school and is now Director of Athletics for the DeSoto County School District, now has his name forever associated with the football field on the Hernando High School campus.
A halftime ceremony christened “Anthony Jenkins Field at Tiger Stadium.” A sign was unveiled and a proclamation by Mayor Chip Johnson making Friday “Anthony Jenkins Day” was presented as friends, family, football fans and former players looked on.
Jenkins said the action to have his name associated with the football program he developed over more than a quarter century was a humbling thing for him.
“When you start your career, you never imagine that one day something like this would happen,” Jenkins said. “I’ve been so blessed and so lucky that I was able to come back to the high school where I played, be the head coach for 26 years and to be able to touch and work with so many great people.”
Current athletic director and baseball coach David Lara said an extensive effort was made to make the evening happen.
“It’s been right at about two-and-a-half months that we’ve been trying to get everything organized as much as possible with as many people as possible,” Lara said. “We’ve had a lot of people who reached out to us and we were able to reach some of his former players and parents of kids who played for him, faculty who are still here that were with him a long time, so it’s been a good experience.”
Jenkins left the sidelines after a 26-year career to become the district head of athletics in 2014. During his time, Tiger football teams amassed a record of 158-108. Jenkins took the Tigers to the state playoffs eight times, including a North Half runner-up finish in 2010.
More than 100 players earned college scholarships under Jenkins and three players went on to play in the National Football League.
Jenkins said he looked forward to seeing former players, many of whom greeted him at a reception before Friday’s Hernando game with DeSoto Central.
“This is the highlight of my career and the great part about tonight is that I got a chance to see players from 26 years back,” Jenkins said. “You can probably imagine that the years kind of run together but I remembered nearly every kid from that first team and that second team, because it was them that laid the foundation for us to be where we are right now.”
Lara said Jenkins was special to Hernando because he did more than just teach youngsters. He invested time beyond the classroom with them.
“We talk a lot about spending time with our kids but he invested a lot of time into this school and this community,” Lara said. “I don’t look at this only as an honor for him, but it’s something for the community and the people he worked with throughout the years.”
At the state level, Jenkins was named the head coach for the 2012 Bernard Blackwell All-Star Game, which showcases the top senior football players in Mississippi, and was an assistant coach in the 1990 contest. He has twice been named an assistant coach in the game between Mississippi and Alabama all-stars, in 2001 and 2008.
Jenkins has also been Hernando’s head track coach for 23 years and powerlifting coach for 19 years.
Bringing school and community behind a program was another item Jenkins especially is pleased to have done.
“When we took over 26 years ago, it was not that way,” Jenkins said. “I felt like if we could bring the pride back with the football team that the community would rally behind us, which they did. We’ve had great support from the community for a long, long time.”
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.