The guy who almost left Illinois after his sophomore season now leads the team in catches and receiving yards. After two games, A.J. Jenkins has almost as many catches (eight) and more yards (147) than he did all last season in new coordinator Paul Petrino's offense. And he got Nathan Scheelhaase off on the right foot against Southern Illinois with a nifty 54-yard touchdown catch.
Q: So, was that touchdown pass more on you or Nathan?
A: I think it was more on the offensive linemen, blocking for him. They blitz a lot and the offensive linemen gave him more time to see me down the field. I give them credit for that.
Q: You did a pretty good job, too.
A: You've got to be playmaker. Coach P's motto is "Feed the stud."
Q: Are you the stud?
A: I'm trying to be one.
Q: You've been playing with a broken finger. How's that doing?
A: It's a lot better. It was the first day of Rantoul. I tried to catch a ball and it got nicked up somehow. (Paul) Petrino wouldn't let me take a day off. He said, "When I was in college, I played with a broken sternum, so you can play with a broken finger."
Q: Do you think Nathan Scheelhaase proved he can throw the deep ball?
A: I didn't even think about that. I knew he had an arm since last year. I guess if they didn't believe before, they do now. Nate's got a nice, firm ball. If the world's not going to believe it, I guess we've got to do it again.
Q: Are you glad you stayed at Illinois?
A: I'm definitely happy. Things last year were a little bit frustrating. But I made the right decision and we're going to keep rolling from there.
Q: How close did you really come to leaving?
A: Close enough to where Coach (Ron) Zook had to call me and let me know the new offensive coordinator's name. I did my homework on him. I liked what his resume said: Arkansas, Falcons, Louisville. I liked what it had to say.
Q: If you had left Illinois, what school do you think you would be playing for?
A: There were some schools that popped into my mind that are close to home. It didn't get to the point where I was actually talking to them.
Q: Was the distance from home part of the issue?
A: As a freshman, you get homesick. After a while, it doesn't matter at all. If you're happy on the field, happy in the classroom, happy where you're at, it's not going to matter at all.
Q: Does A.J. stand for "Athletic Jacksonvillian"?
A: It does.
Q: Your middle name doesn't start with a J. It's Alonzo.
A: It's kind of confusing. They call me A.J. Jenkins, which is Alfred Jenkins Jenkins. I had that name since Pop Warner. I'm fine with it. My auntie is the only one who calls me Alfred. Even on the first day of class, I say "Please call me A.J." I don't like Alfred at all. That's my dad's name and my granddad's name. I'm the third.
Q: How did you end up at Illinois?
A: Honestly, I wanted to do something different. The SEC is what my region is the breed of the area. I wanted to do my own path. I wanted to experience something new.
Q: How much does it help you to have other guys from Florida on the team?
A: It helped me a lot. It made me feel a little bit like home still, a little Florida love still.
Q: How much will you miss Eddie McGee if he can't play this week?
A: That's going to be a lot of leadership missing. But we're going to pick it up and not miss a beat. He and C.J. (Chris James) are the leaders. They're always coaching everything. That's a good thing.
Q: Obviously, your attention is on Northern Illinois. But Ohio State is coming to town in a few weeks. Have you thought about that game just a little?
A: I just learned to take one practice at a time. I can't look past a team. I don't want to go into O-State being 1-2.
Q: Who are smarter, receivers or defensive backs?
A: Receivers have got to be smarter. We've got to read the coverage. We've got to find open lanes. Defense, they've got just one play. They've got a set coverage.
Q: Who are tougher, receivers or linebackers?
A: Receivers. Linebackers, they have to give the hit and we have to take the hit.
Q: Who does better with women, receivers or quarterbacks?
A: Receivers. We catch passes and we catch women. That's what we do.
Q: What's your favorite thing about being a college football player?
A: After a win, I go to my cell phone and I have a bunch of text messages and phone calls from back home. After Saturday, I had 13 missed calls and 25 text messages.
Q: Least favorite?
A: Waking up at 6:30 every morning. Not during the season, but in the offseason. I'm not an early riser. I love sleeping in. As much as Coach P has us working, I need as much sleep as I can get. I sleep for a long time.
Q: What's one word that best describes Paul Petrino?
A: Crazy. Crazy in a good way. I've never met a coach like him before. He fooled me. When I talked to him in the offseason, he seemed real cool, collected, real calm. Coaching-wise, that man is wow.
Q: How have you two gotten along?
A: Pretty good. I like him a lot. You definitely have to adjust to him, he's not going to adjust to you. He demands respect. Nobody talks back to him. We all respect him. He's just that kind of guy. He walks in the room and everybody shuts up.
Q: Is he not as tough on you guys since he hurt his knee?
A: He's been worse. He's still out there running around, jogging around, hopping around. Whatever he's got to do, he's going to do it.
Q: Do you think Calvin Johnson made that catch?
A: Definitely. One thing Calvin Johnson didn't do, Petrino always says "Quick tuck." If he had done a quick tuck that would have been a catch.
Q: Who is your favorite NFL receiver?
A: Andre Johnson. He's one of the best receivers, but he's humble. He's not like T.O. He's just real humble and real grounded.
Q: Which of the seniors are you going to miss the most next season?
A: There are so many to name. Of course, I'm going to miss Eddie and (Jarred) Fayson. Honestly, it's got to be between C.J. and (Antonio) Gully. Good guys. Always in a good mood.
Q: Do you like the idea of the Big Ten championship game?
A: I love the idea.
Q: Are you playing in it next season?
A: Definitely. We're there.
Q: In a few questions, I'm going to ask you to tell me something people don't know about you. But first, tell me something people don't know about one of your teammates.
A: Jack Ramsey is the cleanest person I've ever seen. We were at Camp Rantoul and everybody's bringing in just a bag with clothes. He's bringing bleach. He wiped down his whole room. He brought his own sheets. His locker is always organized. I'm not like that. I'm laid back.
Q: Who is your favorite female entertainer?
A: I've got a couple of them: Gabrielle Union and Kim Kardashian.
Q: A night on the town with Gabrielle and Kim or three touchdown catches and a win against Northern Illinois?
A: I'd be selfish if I said the females. Three touchdown catches and a win against Northern Illinois. I think that will probably get me to Kim Kardashian.
Q: Tell me something people don't know about you.
A: I've got to put my socks on the same way every time. I wear two pairs of socks. I put on my left sock, then my right sock, then my right sock, then my left sock. I kind of sag them a little bit. They have to be equally sagged on each sock: same height, same color.