Michigan DT Kris Jenkins talks Chargers interest, possible Jim Harbaugh reunion

Could Kris Jenkins reunite with Jim Harbaugh in Los Angeles?
Kris Jenkins
Kris Jenkins / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

It can sometimes be difficult for second-generation athletes to escape the shadow of their famous relatives, but Michigan defensive tackle Kris Jenkins has had no trouble forging his own path to this point.

A former three-star recruit, Jenkins spent four years at Michigan, developing into a team leader and defensive standout, en route to helping his school win a National Championship this past season.

Jenkins was a second-team All-American in 2023 and is still just scratching the surface of his potential. From his NFL bloodline to his superb athleticism to his infectious personality, Jenkins has made waves in the pre-draft process and has solidified himself as a projected Day 2 pick.

We recently sat down with Jenkins to discuss his career at Michigan, the 2024 NFL Draft process, and a potential reunion with Jim Harbaugh on the Los Angeles Chargers.

Below is only a partial transcription of our interview. To watch the interview in its entirety, be sure to click here and subscribe to the Stacking the Box YouTube channel so you don't miss out on any additional content.

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Kris Jenkins on his partnership with Bounty and P&G and Meijer

Justin Fried: "Tell me a little bit about your partnership with Bounty and P&G and Meijer ahead of the NFL Draft?"

Kris Jenkins: "As a big man, I definitely got to get my food in — my burgers, my fries — especially this week. And the biggest thing we're about to get into is some wings. You can't have football without them wings, and you can't have wings without Bounty. They call it Bounty for a reason. For a clumsy guy like me, there's no better brand to be partnered with than Bounty."

Kris Jenkins on growing up in a football family

JF: "You grew up in a football family. Both your father, Kris Sr., and your uncle, Cullen, played a long time in the NFL. What was it like growing up surrounded by football?"

KJ: "It was awesome, man. Whenever I was there, being a part of the game, seeing the big stage, getting down on the field with him, seeing these giants, seeing the stadium, getting in the locker room, it was always a wonderful experience for me. And I knew then and there what I wanted to be when I grew up."

JF: "What are some of the biggest lessons that you say you've learned from your father and even your uncle over the years?"

KJ: "Definitely having a humble mind, staying the course, and continuing to have that chip on my shoulder. The higher you get — high school, college, the NFL — you realize that everybody has talent. So what's really going to separate you is that work ethic, that drive. How hard are you willing to work to get yourself and your team to that point? That's what they've instilled in me from day one."

Kris Jenkins on his "The Mutant" nickname

JF: "While you were at Michigan, you earned the nickname 'The Mutant.' What’s the origin story behind that name?"

KJ: "I got it from Coach Herb [former Michigan strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert], himself. He started this tradition in the 2021 season when we were revamping our culture. He was going to go through every single player by position group each day and go through them with a whole team. This is an entire team meeting. Coaches, players, and staff are there. He gave an honest report of how each player attacked the winter and the summer training cycle. This is my sophomore year. I haven't really gotten playing time yet. He gets to me. He's like, Kris Jenkins is The Mutant. And from that moment, hearing it from a guy like Coach Herb, that's when it stuck. And that's when I started to embrace it."

Kris Jenkins on winning the National Championship at Michigan

JF: "We have to talk about this past season because it was a magical one for you guys. Undefeated. 15-0. National champs. Not many college players can say that they ended their career on top like you did. So talk to me about what it was like to win that National Championship and ride off into the sunset the way that you did."

KJ: "We had that one-track mind. We still had that tunnel vision that there was one more job to do. After winning that Rose Bowl, having that amazing victory, it didn't really set in like we were playing in the championship. For us, it was another game. So once we finally got that third score and there were like six minutes left in the fourth, that's when it really started to set in. We did it. And when the confetti fell, man, that's when all the tears came out and all the happiness. It was like you said — it was magical."

Kris Jenkins on Jim Harbaugh and meeting with the Chargers

JF: "You had the opportunity to learn from one of the greats at Michigan in Jim Harbaugh. What was it like working under Coach Harbaugh, and to you, what makes him such a special coach?"

KJ: "It was awesome because he's really got that enthusiasm, that passion, for the game. He's the same person every single day, and he doesn't care what anybody thinks. He's going to show you that he loves you. He appreciates you, and he's going to make sure you're damn good at football. And really just like his work ethic, because he's not just one of those coaches who just is going to push us to go there. He's going to push us, and he's going to do the work with us. We're doing 6 am workouts, conditioning, and strength training. He's doing it too. That's what really makes him Coach Harbaugh."

JF: "You actually visited with Coach Harbaugh’s new team, the Los Angeles Chargers, this week alongside your college teammate Junior Colson. Talk to me about how that visit went and what it was like catching up with Coach Harbaugh."

KJ: "It was awesome getting a got a chance to see Coach Harbaugh in Cali at the LA facility, seeing how they operate, their plans for the future, and just seeing the coaches in the new office. It was a really surreal experience. At the end of the day, whatever happens, happens, but it was sick to see him up there. They are interested, so we'll see how we'll see how it pans out."

Kris Jenkins on meeting with NFL teams

JF: "So obviously you met with the Chargers. Are there any other teams you’ve met with quite a bit leading up to the draft?"

KJ: "Absolutely. I've been fortunate enough to meet with a bunch of teams. I had a couple of top-30 visits with Cincinnati, Miami and the Lions. They have been nothing but amazing. The coaches up there are amazing. It's been a lot of sleepless nights since then. I'm just excited. We're going to see what happens."

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