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EX-USF STAR HAS IMPROVED SINCE ROOKIE YEAR

IRVING, Texas - Mike Jenkins grew up in Bradenton. He went to USF, playing 23 home games at Raymond James Stadium. So just how excited is Jenkins to be going home?

"Regular game," he said with a straight face. "I'm going to go out there and take it just like any other game."

Never mind the 30 tickets for Sunday's game he had to find for family and friends.

Jenkins made three starts last season, including the 13-9 victory over the Bucs. But he started only when Terence Newman was hurt and Adam "Pacman" Jones suspended.

This season, he is the starter. So is Orlando Scandrick. The second-year corners played so well in the preseason, Dallas named them co-starters. Jenkins draws the Bucs.

Jenkins was taken 25th overall. But Scandrick, a fifth-round pick, played more like a first-round pick than Jenkins last season. Jenkins, though, has caught up.

"He's really learned to pull the trigger," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. "He's been physical."

Phillips cited a hit on the 49ers' Frank Gore on Aug. 29, in which he made a one-on-one tackle after a pass catch.

Jenkins, however, has yet to live down last season's touchdown by then-Giant Derrick Ward, in which he appeared to shy away from contact.

"I had a role last year, and I played my role," Jenkins said. "I feel like I had a great season last year until one play, and everybody's judging me off one play. If that's how you judge somebody on a football game, then they need to re-evaluate it."

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