Offensive tackle Teven Jenkins excelled as a senior last season at Oklahoma State, earning first-team All-Big 12 honors. But his college coach is convinced that the best is yet to come for the Bears' second-round pick.
"I think he's just scratching the surface on his ability," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said during a Zoom call with Chicago reporters.
"When he arrived, I don't think he had any idea what college football was like. And just in the last year, he's finally developed some toughness and some grit that will certainly benefit him playing in the NFL. I would not be surprised in two years if people are looking back and saying he is potentially the best offensive lineman taken in this draft."
If that transpires, Jenkins no doubt would be considered the steal of the 2021 draft. Projected by most NFL analysts as a first-round pick, he remained on the board until the Bears traded up to take him at No. 39 in the second round. Six offensive linemen were selected ahead of the 6-6, 320-pounder.
When Jenkins first enrolled at Oklahoma State in 2016, he possessed impressive traits. But Gundy saw a much different player over the last season and a half.
"He has phenomenal athleticism, strength, he's highly intelligent, and he's just started to really get into football over the last 18 months," Gundy said.
"Now I know that sounds funny, but when you're as gifted and talented as he is, you can get by being a good college football player without having that grit and toughness like he's developed over the last 18 months. So he really brought that to our program just recently."
Listening to Gundy, it sounds like Jenkins had no idea how high his ceiling was.
"I used to joke with Teven when we were in the weight room," Gundy said. "There'd be 60 or 80 players in there and I would say, 'Teven, there's one guy in this room that could be worth $30 or $40 million dollars someday. Do you know who that is?' He would say 'no,' and I would say, 'It's you, Teven. That's who it could be.'
"He had such a laid-back personality, and I don't think he ever saw himself being that good of a football player. That's why I'm saying within the next couple years, the NFL is going to be really shocked at what you have. Because when we asked him and challenged him to be as good as he can be and dominate a player, we had a lot of success with him on those days."
One of those occasions came last Halloween against Texas—and Jenkins rose to the occasion, playing one of the best games of his collegiate career.
"Essentially, his guys didn't make any plays at all," Gundy said. "Teven is an interesting young man. You look at him and you say, 'It took that long for you to realize that you were a special talent?' And it really did with him."
Now that Jenkins is entering the NFL, he'll have to approach every game and practice like it's the Texas contest all over again.
Said Gundy: "We've told him, 'Teven, this is what it's going to take. Guys that are at the level that you're trying to get to, they're trying to feed their families. They're not just college kids out there on scholarship. You're going to have to change your mental approach.' And I think he is making that change."
Fields, Jenkins, Borom, Herbert, Newsome, Graham & Tonga. See photos of all the new Bears rookies selected in the 2021 NFL Draft.