Peter Jinkens was on top of the world.
The senior linebacker led Texas’ defense in tackles and sacks, was selected to the All Big 12 second team and was a shoo-in to be selected in this year’s NFL Draft.
But that all changed in a snap.
In the first half against Texas Tech on Nov. 26, Texas called a designed blitz, assigning Jinkens to cover a Texas Tech wide receiver. As Jinkens went after the receiver, his heel became stuck in the turf as the receiver cut inside. When Jinkens made an adjustment, he felt a snap and fell to the ground grabbing his knee.
Later that night in the locker room, Jinkens learned the diagnosis — he had torn his ACL.
“I didn’t want to believe it,” Jinkens said. “I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll be fine, it was probably just a hyperextension or something like that.’ But as bad as I didn’t want to believe it, in the back of my head, I knew I tore it.”
Jinkens was known as one of the most positive guys on the team, always striving to put a smile on his teammates’ faces by dancing and doing backflips in the Texas locker room.
But he found it extremely difficult to remain optimistic after his injury when he found out he couldn’t showcase his talents in the Senior Bowl or his Pro Day, let alone put on the burnt orange jersey ever again.
“I was frantic,” Jinkens said. “[I kept saying], ‘Oh, my god, my life is over. I got to get a regular job now.’ You know all this stuff is going through my head. I started crying cause it was my last year, and I didn’t want to miss any of my senior year, so I was just heartbroken about it.”
However, Jinkens’ heartbreak didn’t stop his hard work.
“Peter’s been looking real good,” offensive lineman Sedrick Flowers said. “He’s always been a go-all-out type of guy. He’s the same guy. I don’t feel like the injury changed him at all.”
Every week, Jinkens spends time at the Texas Sports Medicine Center in the North End Zone at DKR rehabbing to get his knee back to 100 percent. Jinkens works out on the elliptical, does weighted squat lunges and runs on a pool treadmill.
Jinkens signed a contract in late December with NFL agents Darren and Jarrett Smith, who are dedicated to helping Jinkens land on a NFL team’s 53-man roster.
“We gave him a plan,” Jarrett Smith said. “[We told him], ‘We believe in you, we know you can do this and we are going to do this for you to make sure that once training camp gets close that you’ll have been able to do everything possible to get yourself back to 100 percent and hopefully better than you were before.’”
Jinkens stood on the sideline on Wednesday morning for Texas’ Pro Day. All he could do was cheer on his teammates as they performed in front of NFL scouts. But the experience only made him eager to get healthy again.
Ever since Jinkens received his scholarship to Texas, making the NFL has always been a dream in the back of his mind. Now he doesn’t want to stop working until that dream becomes a reality.
“I’m very dedicated,” Jinkens said. “I mean, I worked my whole life for this. I’d be damned if I stopped now. I just got to keep going and keep working ‘cause it’s so close, so close. I just got to keep pushing.”