GREEN BAY – Elgton Jenkins was caught off-guard when Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst called him early Monday morning with the news he had been selected to the Pro Bowl.
Yes, that Pro Bowl.
"I was kind of shocked for a minute," said Jenkins when asked about his reaction on Wednesday. "I asked him what he said. He was like, 'Yeah, you made the Pro Bowl. First-ballot starter.'"
It shouldn't come as too big of a surprise. The second-year guard has been a valuable – and versatile – member of the NFL's third-highest scoring offense and an offensive line that's allowed just 18 sacks of quarterback Aaron Rodgers this season.
As injuries flared up, Jenkins has been the adhesive holding everything together. His three spot starts at center and one at right tackle made Jenkins, just 24, the first Packers player to start games at guard, tackle and center since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.
So while Jenkins is certainly deserving of the Pro Bowl, it's rare for a young offensive lineman to garner that sort of attention. In fact, prior to this week, it had been 68 years since the last time a Packers offensive lineman was voted to the Pro Bowl during his first two NFL seasons (Deral Teteak).
"Can't say enough good things about Elgton," said All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, who was selected as one of the NFC's two starting tackles in the Pro Bowl. "He's a talent, and I have to give him credit, he is an offensive-lineman athlete. I know he's probably got an even bigger head than he already does have from me saying that, but he earned it."
Bakhtiari likes to joke about the "big-brother relationship" he's had with Jenkins since the Packers drafted the latter in the second round out of Mississippi State in 2019 – almost to the point of annoyance at times.
It served a purpose, though. A starting center during his final two seasons in Starkville, Jenkins was asked to fill the vacancy at left guard between two of the best players at their respective positions – Bakhtiari at left tackle and Corey Linsley at center – following Lane Taylor's season-ending biceps injury in 2019.
Jenkins proved to be a quick study. He didn't just fuse the gap between the established veterans – he thrived, and was named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team after starting 16 games (including playoffs).
While listed as the team's starting left guard going into the season, Jenkins made a spot start at right tackle during the opener in Minnesota because both Billy Turner and Rick Wagner were dealing with lingering injuries from training camp.
Jenkins stayed put at left guard for the next eight weeks until sliding to left tackle in the second half of the Packers' Week 9 matchup with San Francisco after Wagner – already playing in place of an injured Bakhtiari (ribs) – exited with a knee injury.
Most recently, after Linsley succumbed to a knee injury against Philadelphia in Week 13, Jenkins has been playing center again. With Linsley eligible to be activated from injured reserve this week, however, there is a chance Jenkins could go back to his home base as soon as this Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
"He's a very intelligent player, and it's not too big for him," said offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett of how Jenkins has handled the position switches. "He's a guy that just steps up to the challenge, loves the game. He can do so much, and I think that's just allowed him to play at a high level."
Versatility has been Jenkins' calling card going back to his days at Clarksdale (Miss.) High School. For a short time, he was even recruited by the University of Alabama-Birmingham as a defensive lineman before it became apparent his future lied on the offensive side of the ball.
When asked about Jenkins' flexibility, Hackett joked, "The way he's been, we could put him out at wide receiver maybe." If given the opportunity, Jenkins made a playful quip about possibility slotting himself in at the signal-caller spot.
"I'd play quarterback," smiled Jenkins. "Just knowing defenses and stuff like that, with the arm I've got, I feel like I could sling it around, break a couple records."
Elgton wasn't the only member of the Jenkins family surprised by the Pro Bowl news. The first person he called after speaking with Gutekunst was his mother, Delandra, who was "hollering on the phone" after Jenkins told her.
While sworn to secrecy, Delandra proceeded to call Elgton "five or six" more times to double-check until was finally announced on NFL Network at 6 p.m. CT.
Although Delandra might have always known what her son can do on a football field, the league's coaches and players also have taken notice during Jenkins' first two NFL seasons.
"I'm just blessed, man," Jenkins said. "It comes from hard work, just trying to be the best person I can, on the field, off the field and getting the job done. The league finally taking recognition, hopefully for the next however so many years it'll keep happening."
Seven Packers were named to the Pro Bowl rosters. Check out photos of them from the 2020 season.