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D-I dreams delayed, not denied, for former North Suncoast standouts

Tyrone Hendrix signed a letter of intent Wednesday, more than 1,300 miles from home.

The former Mitchell receiver was surrounded by a few coaches and teammates from New Mexico Military Institute.

Hendrix said the celebration was nothing too elaborate, but a ceremony nonetheless.

He signed with Division I-AA Morgan State in Baltimore, a place more suited to his hopes coming out of Mitchell two years ago.

Academic issues detoured his plans and Hendrix, like many D-I hopefuls, landed in junior college first.

"I could have gone to a Division II school," Hendrix said. "But I wanted to play on the big stage of Division I."

• • •

Former Wesley Chapel quarterback Greg Jenkins took a similar detour.

Jenkins had a flashy senior season and would have been a bona fide Division-I recruit had it not been for a convoluted issue regarding class credits that overshadowed his 3.1 GPA.

"To be honest, I thought I was going to N.C. State or USF," Jenkins said. "When it came down to it I didn't have the credits or the test scores. I knew I wasn't going D-I."

Instead, he had a choice between New Mexico Military Institute or Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

Troy had visited Jenkins as a junior and though he didn't know it at the time, recommended him to MGCCC.

Jenkins chose the defending national champion and flourished. He threw for almost 3,500 yards and 37 touchdowns in two seasons en route to a pair of division titles.

Troy kept tabs on him the entire way and offered him a scholarship, which he accepted before any other Division I schools could enter the Jenkins sweepstakes.

Jenkins enrolled at Troy last month.

• • •

In high school, Hendrix had interest from Louisiana-Monroe and Marshall but never made a visit to either school.

A family friend helped Hendrix land in New Mexico, where he moved sight unseen the day after his 18th birthday.

It was an awakening of sorts.

"It was scary," Hendrix said. "Just to go on a plane yourself where you don't know anyone, you just have your phone and money."

Hendrix learned tumbleweeds are not just something seen in a Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoon.

Once he arrived, his cell phone was taken away for three weeks during military training.

He played in games, but his family was never there to watch him. Hendrix said more than 120 players began the season, but only about 50 lasted.

"It got to the point where I didn't want to play football," he said. "… But I never quit anything in life. I couldn't bring myself to quit."

Hendrix struggled with the military demands — following orders, doing push-ups. He had to cut his dreadlocks and learned he needed to be in better physical shape.

Hendrix said the first month he went to bed in tears almost every night.

"You have people telling you what to do all the time, people yelling at you," Hendrix said. "Even when you think you're doing something right, you're doing it wrong."

Last season, he had 37 catches for 673 yards and five touchdowns. As a Mitchell senior, Hendrix caught 33 passes for 625 yards and eight touchdowns.

Hendrix often gives his younger brother, Travis Hendrix, advice to stay on a solid path.

"I tell him to make sure he has good grades and take your ACT as many times as you can," Hendrix said. "If I could go back and change anything, I would have taken my ACT/SAT multiple times in high school. I would have done work in class.

"I would have applied myself a lot more. At this school, you have to apply yourself."

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@tampabay.com or (813) 421-3886.

D-I dreams delayed, not denied, for former North Suncoast standouts 02/03/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 3, 2010 10:43pm]
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