Life’s Playing Field

ENNIS, TX — Some people just look like football players. We’ve all seen them. They’re hard to miss. These giants of the gridiron are blessed with a dominance that’s both physical and mental. Coach Kerry Jenkins is one of these gentle giants. Towering above his peers, it doesn’t havoc on the opposition. Fellow coach Dondre Johnson shares Kerry’s attributes and United States Marine Corps.

314ennisKerry and Dondre are joined by a common purpose — one serves as president and Kerry as vice president.
are their equals when it comes to heart. “It was really an easy Dondre tells much the same story. “We used to see all the little kids out at football practice,” he recalled, “but we noticed that none from the neighborhood we grew up in were out there.” The men weren’t sure whether no one was willing to coach those kids or if they just didn’t have the transportation to get there. “There was no way I was going to let them miss out on the opportunity if I could do something about it,” Dondre added.

Soon Kerry and Dondre, along with fellow coaches Jack Alvarez, Jerry Mason, Everett Green and Terrance McAdams, set out on a task greater than teaching the fundamentals of a game they all love. “If a young kid comes to me and has
the drive to improve, there’s no way I’m going to tell him he can’t just because his parents can’t afford a pair of shoes or a football helmet,” Kerry enthused.

As a result, fundraising became a skill Kerry and Dondre would need to acquire. Judging from the results, it’s one they have to learn was the process of establishing a out. “After that, the people of Ennis really took care of the rest. We have been given so much by so many. So many people gave whatever they could.”

Once coaches were in place and athletes were equipped, success followed. philosophy, Dondre and Kerry’s teams have celebrated three Ellis County Super Bowl wins. The team trophy case also includes two USA Football state titles. The kids have had three undefeated seasons, in one of which they didn’t allow a single point. “All the trophies are great, but that’s not what keeps me coming out,” Kerry admitted. “Sometimes I think about what these kids would be doing
if they weren’t out here with me and Dondre playing football. And I don’t have to think long. They would probably be getting into trouble.”

“Growing up, I saw too many kids get into trouble just because they didn’t have anything better to do,” Dondre added. “I guess our mission is to give them that ‘special something’ many of them are missing.”

With such a lofty mission, it’s no surprise Kerry and Dondre expanded beyond football. “After football season was over, we began to hang out with the kids shooting hoops,” Dondre said. “But if we’re going to be doing that, it only made sense to take it up a notch and give it a purpose.”

With the formation of a proper team, Kerry and Dondre’s prote?ge?s were competing and dominating other youth basketball teams in the area just as they support and help from the community came rolling in.

The work doesn’t end with the school year either. As summer begins, the kids under Kerry and Dondre’s athletic care are running track. “Summer is our most important time,” Kerry observed. “Even good kids get into stuff when they have too much free time on their hands. We get them off the streets and run some of their energy off.”

Bolstered by their success in other sports, the kids continue to succeed even as the weather gets hot. The varsity team at Ennis High School is chock full of the sport from Kerry and Dondre. Last season, one earned a spot on the varsity team as a freshman, easily keeping up with kids far more advanced. So far, 21
of the young people they’ve coached have gone on to win state titles. The coaches attribute their success to their adherence to the four D’s: discipline, desire, dedication and determination.

But while their trophy collection expands, Kerry and Dondre know what really matters. “It would be easy to count up all the trophies and titles,” Kerry
said, “but it’s what we can’t count that’s important. How many kids did we help keep out of jail? How many kids did we teach to respect their mothers? I may never really know, but I know we did our part and that we tried.”

Winning games isn’t all that motivates the two coaches. It’s the simple things that keep them coming back. Neither has a child in the program they’ve worked so hard to develop. But as Kerry and Dondre roam the side lines, encouraging their young charges, it’s evident they take as much pride in the budding athletes as they would if they were their own children. And it’s a bond that’s reciprocated.

“Every time I go to the grocery store,” Kerry explained, “I run into one of the kids. When I see their eyes light up, and they run up to tell me about their grades or whatever, I’m reminded why Dondre and I do it, and it’s all worth it.”

Written by Rick Herron.