Every Tuesday, we’ll sit down with one of the Packers players, coaches or administrators and spend some time getting a small glimpse into their lives away from football. This week, it’s defensive end Cullen Jenkins, who talks his cartoon watching, life as a dad and why the NCAA wouldn’t let him work as a waiter at Denny’s in college, among other topics.
I watch the Cartoon Network every night. My wife gets sick of it, gets sick of me going to sleep with the TV on. My favorite show is Family Guy. I watch that a lot. That’s the big one. And Aqua Teen Hunger Force. I just like watching cartoons. Kris and I, growing up, we didn’t watch that much TV because we didn’t have cable. All we had were the basic channels, and there wasn’t much on then. But Saturday mornings, we’d watch the Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show. We loved that.
The only movies I see are kids movies. The only time we get to go to the theater is to see Ice Age or Meet The Robinsons, something like that.
I drive a Cadillac Escalade. I got it after I got my contract. I was driving a 2001 Mercury Mountaineer my first few years, a vehicle that my brother Kris helped me get when he got drafted. I drove that around the first two years, and then my third year, I finally went ahead and bought something nice.
I try to be smart with my money. Obviously everybody has their weaknesses. Me and my wife, our weakness is with food. We spend a lot on going out to eat, trying different types of food. When we go to our favorite sushi place, Koko, the bill’s about $200 something. The kids eat it too. My wife and I like the fact that they’re willing to try new stuff. With sushi, we try not to let them eat too much of it. But they really love the sake, which is raw salmon. It’s good.
On my iPod, I listen to a lot of Jay-Z, but I actually have some reggae on it now. I wasn’t a big reggae fan at first, but when your wife is from the Carribean, you start to adjust to it a little bit. I like it now.
I was a waiter at Denny’s for a couple years, and I think everybody should experience being a waiter or waitress at some point in their life so they understand what people have to go through. It gives you a little better appreciation for those people and how you treat them when you go out to eat. I did it at the end of high school and then some at the beginning of college.
Funny story. I went to school my first year on scholarship, and I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to have a job. So Jasmin was already born – she was born in January, at the end of the season – and I used to drive home to Detroit on the weekends because it was only a two-hour drive and work at Denny’s, and then I’d drive back up to school for the week. Well, I went in and told the people I had a job, and I got in trouble. I got declared ineligible through the NCAA. I ended up having to pay like $230 to charity over the summer to become eligible again for the season. It’s not like it was a no-show job. I’m a waiter, the job I had in high school, trying to make money because I’ve got a family. It’s interesting how they don’t let you do stuff like that even if you may have a different situation than anybody else.
Growing up, I wasn’t all that different than I am now. I’m kind of a big kid. Then, I was silly, class clown, always got in trouble in school. Never big trouble, but saying something slick, smart-(aleck) stuff.
Being a dad, it’s always something. I don’t get to do much reading. I mostly do homework with the kids. I’m not a big reader. I’m trying to. I had bought a book a few years ago, The Cell. I started reading it, it got good, and maybe halfway through, I stopped. It’s still in my dresser drawer, and I haven’t finished it yet. I’m usually in charge of helping them with math and science. I’m pretty good with that.
Jasmin will be 10 and
It was challenging, being a dad when you’re 18. But it’s still challenging, you know. At first, it was a little tough just because I was never around any kids growing up – or any girls. It was always me, my dad and my brother growing up. So when I had a daughter, I didn’t know what to do. I remember in the hospital, when I had to change a diaper for the first time, I had to call the nurse in because I didn’t know what the heck to do. But you learn as you go.
They’re spoiled. I will admit that. They definitely don’t have to try hard to get things. But you have to draw the line. They’ve been trying to get a horse out of me. But we’ve got enough animals as it is. We have three or four dogs, a parrot, a turtle … it’s between here and
My wife Pashun and I, we’ve been married for six years, but we’ve been together for, it’ll be 12 years next month. We were high-school sweethearts, as they say. It’s so cool to have been together that long because, everything we have, we came into together. It’s never been something where you’re ever worried about how somebody may look at your or view you. I moved out of the house my senior year and was living with her at her place. So we’ve been together for a long time. We pretty much have never been separated. We’ve always been one. That’s pretty cool.
There were a lot of times during my career, especially after I got cut, where I wondered. You have to go home, and you want to provide for your family. I can remember the first time I got cut at the end of training camp in 2003, I thought I was going to be on the practice squad. So I thought I had a job. And then, the day they signed practice-squad players, I wasn’t on it. That was depressing. At that time, we were staying with my mother-in-law, in a two-bedroom apartment. It was her, her boyfriend, me, my wife and two kids. That was a lot. Those are the times when you feel bad.
But they were always real supportive of me. They never complained. That’s why, right when I found out that I wasn’t coming up here, I went out immediately and started looking for jobs. I mean, I applied everywhere. I tried to clean semi trucks, I tried to work in a beer factory. I ended up getting a job landscaping. I had to do something. I was going to try to be a substitute teacher, and at the high school where I went,
I was waiting to see if I got picked up, but I never got any workouts and never got any practice-squad offers. So I ended up signing an Arena Football contract, because I thought maybe the NFL wasn’t going to be for me. And just when I was getting ready to go play, that’s when I got signed (in January 2004) here and sent to NFL Europe. So we’re definitely thankful for everything we have, everything we’ve been able to accomplish and overcome.
The key to success is just being consistent, being able to continue to fight and not looking for the quick fix. You have to be committed to it. There may be times where you think it may not happen, but you have to keep fighting. You have to keep fighting.
I usually look for my wife and the girls in the crowd before games, but other than that, I don’t really have any superstitions. I just try to stay relaxed as I can until I get out on the field.
I can get down on some Rollerblades. I took a class in college – an in-line skating class.
My best quality is probably just being easy-going most of the time, being able to laugh off a lot of stuff. My worst quality is probably … being able to laugh off a lot of stuff. (laughs) I play around a lot, and that can irritate people easily.
My favorite moment as a Packer has to be when I made the team that first year (2004) and that first game against my brother on Monday night. It was one of those moments you couldn’t plan any better.
My brother and I are pretty close. We don’t talk every day, but we probably talk once a week. We don’t talk about football a lot. We talk about family. We talk football enough with everybody else. I just talked to him two or three days ago after he had his knee surgery. He asks about the girls, I ask him how things are going with him, how he just got married in July. We’ve always been close. You’re probably never as close as you are when you’re younger, because you’re in the same house all the time. He stays out on the East Coast now that he’s with the Jets. And I’m either here or in
My parents got divorced when we were kids, and she ended up remarrying. So while we were growing up, most of the time it was just my dad, Kris and me. My dad – his name is Darome – taught me so much about being a dad – and the most important thing is just being there. One of the reasons I am the way I am with my kids now is how he was there with us. You see how important that is. So many kids grow up with you and they don’t have dads around, and you see how that affects them.