OGDEN, Utah — Kaden Jenks is a winner.
He knows how to win, he knows how to make it happen, and now, the former Royal City standout that led the Knights to back-to-back Washington 1A state football championships is learning a little something about patience as a redshirt freshman at Weber State University.
The Wildcats (7-2, 5-1 BSC) just moved up to 12th in the nation in the FCS Coaches poll, 14th in the FCS STATS poll. It’s the first time that Weber State has been the highest ranked team from the Big Sky in a national poll since 1998 and marks the Wildcats’ highest ranking since the 2009 season.
Jenks has put himself in place to be a part of something special, and he’s working hard to be ready when his time comes.
“I love it. I thank (Royal football coach) Wiley (Allred) and everyone there at Royal that did a great job developing me for where I am now,” Jenks said in a telephone interview from Ogden, Utah. “They instilled the work ethic. I know what I need to do and I have the mental toughness to do it, and I’m thankful for that.”
Jenks is one of six quarterbacks on the roster, including starter Stefan Cantwell, who was 21-of-31 passing for 230 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday’s 28-20 win over Eastern Washington, the Wildcats first win in Cheney since 2009.
One of his biggest adjustments, like any other redshirt, is the not playing part. Jenks rolled into his redshirt season as the 2016 Associated Press 1A player of the year, throwing for 2,506 yards and 36 touchdowns, while rushing for 546 yards and 15 touchdowns. As a Royal four-year starter, he had a career record of 45-6.
“There’s always so much more you can learn about the game to improve,” said Jenks, who had 81 touchdown passes combined his junior and senior seasons. “I’m still working to get bigger, stronger, faster in the weight room with every chance I get.
“They seem happy with my mechanics and I give credit to the Russell Wilson Quarterback Academy, they did a great job in preparing me and putting me in a position to be successful.”
At 6-foot-2, 215-pounds, one of his greatest recruiting strengths was his big right arm and his ability to go deep as well as drive the ball into tight windows at the high school level.
He’ll need all the tools in the tool belt at the next level. But Wildcats offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Fesi Sitake has that big right arm and football intellect as a foundation to build on. Jenks will be the first to tell you that he likes throwing the fastball, but it takes an all-around touch to get where he wants to go.
“A good quarterback can always change velocity and put the ball where they want to. It’s something I’ve been working on to get better at,” Jenks said. “Throwing it hard is a good skill to have, and I’m happy to have it. But even the best quarterbacks can’t throw it through everyone all the time, so I’ve been working hard on touch and developing that skill.”
He had the luxury of being “The Guy” four seasons in Royal City. With six quarterbacks on the Weber State roster, it’s a competitive environment, but it’s also a team where they have each other’s back.
“I don’t know about playing time or whatever. I try and leave that up to the coaches. I just handle what I can handle,” he said. “All the other quarterbacks are amazing and I love having them in the quarterback room. They’re good guys, we all hang out together and we’ll see what happens next year.
“Stefan is a great guy across the board and I’m happy to have the opportunity to learn under him and see how he handles stuff on and off the field. I’ve learned a lot and he’s making me a better football player.”
As Jenks develops his football skills, he is adjusting to life outside a small town, farming community, as well as taking his academics to a higher level.
“I have family here, so I have a little support around,” said Jenks, who intends to major in business management. “It’s a great town in general. The fan base is great. You walk in and every football player on the team wants to talk with you and that’s what I love about it.
“There’s definitely a lot more people around, but I can still go get in the mountains and be outdoors. It’s nice to have a social setting like (Salt Lake City) close and still be able to get back into the mountains.”
Patience is a virtue and Kaden Jenks is making his way in a classroom called life.
Rodney Harwood is a sports writer at the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org