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From Little League to the NFL: Inside Jaguars Rashawn Jenkins and Shaquill Griffin’s 20-Year Friendship

Jacksonville Jaguars and Rayshawn Jenkins - Jacksonville Jaguars Shaquill Griffin

Jacksonville Jaguars and Rayshawn Jenkins - Jacksonville Jaguars Shaquill Griffin

Rayshawn Jenkins and Shaquill Griffin.
照片: Shaquill Griffin/instagram

Many kids dream of playing in the NFL alongside their childhood friends, but few have the chance to make that dream a reality.

Enter Rayshawn Jenkins and ShaquillShaqGriffin, teammates on the 杰克逊维尔美洲虎 who have been friends for more than 20 年. Cornerback Griffin, 27, and safety Jenkins, 28, first met as 7-year-olds playing for a youth football program in their shared hometown of St. Petersburg, 佛罗里达州.

That’s when the connection first started,” Griffin tells PEOPLE of their time with the Lakewood Jr. Spartans. “The friendship developed easily. It was something very natural, and carried over all the way up to now.

The duo remained close friends as teens into adulthood, despite different high schools and colleges. Jenkins attended the University of Miami, while Griffin played at the University of Central Florida. After college, they were drafted by different NFL teams — Griffin by the Seattle Seahawks and Jenkins by the Los Angeles Chargers. Despite the distance, they remained tight-knit.

2- rayshawn Jenkins; 26-shaquill griffin--Jaguars Media Day photographed

2- rayshawn Jenkins; 26-shaquill griffin--Jaguars Media Day photographed

Rayshawn Jenkins.
James Gilbert / 杰克逊维尔美洲虎

这些年来, they’d have dinner at hibachi restaurants or take a jet-ski out, but the athletes always remained focused on football and the same goal of playing professionally. 然后在 2021, 两个都 signed on as Jaguars.

We came on the same day to sign our papers and make it official,” recalls Griffin of joining the team.

I feel like being on the same team again, that was a moment that everybody wanted to see,” 他补充说. “To have guys who have been playing with each other for so long make this full circle back to each other, back in Florida, that was big for the city.

For Jenkins, playing with Griffin means he’s never far from home. “You just feel like you’ve got extended family all the time,” 他说. “It makes you comfortable. This is a dream come true.