Shiny golden grin reflects Jennings' flair
By WES GILBERTSON
Michael Jennings is asked if he thinks "flamboyant" is an appropriate way to describe his personality and a wide smile spreads across his face.
Even before the newest Calgary Stampeder can give a response, a mouthful of gold teeth provides the answer.
"When I went to the (New York) city, that's the label they gave me," shrugged Jennings, who was signed to the Stamps' practice roster earlier this week after being released the NFL's New York Giants. "I guess when they see the gold necklace or the gold chains or the big shiny rims, first of all, they think flamboyant. I do like attention."
The thousands of dollars in shiny dental work decorating his mouth ought to garner plenty of that.
The Stampeders are optimistic Jennings can create a stir on the field, too. There's a chance the speedy receiver, who is generously listed at 5-foot-11 and 185 lb., will be returning punts and kicks when the club hosts the East Division-leading Montreal Alouettes tomorrow (8 p.m., McMahon Stadium).
The former Florida State track star did not play football in college, but never gave up on his dream of suiting up in the NFL. After being cut by four other squads, he cracked the Giants lineup in 2006 and had five receptions in eight outings. Jennings missed last season with a torn achilles tendon, but can thank his former Giants teammates for adding another item to his wardrobe -- a Super Bowl ring. Although he needed a reminder what trophy is presented to the CFL champions, he's eager to add a Grey Cup ring to his collection.
After his first practice at McMahon, Jennings, who describes himself as a "pretty fast fella," was asked what crossed his mind the first time he laid eyes on the expansive CFL field. His response?
"Run home boy, run!"
Why stop now? After all, Jennings' speed is the reason he escaped a crime-riddled neighbourhood in his hometown of Jacksonville.
The day before Jennings packed his bags for Calgary, his childhood friend Gary McCray was convicted of quadruple murder and now awaits sentencing. The returner has also spent time behind bars. Jennings was convicted of a drug charge and driving with a suspended licence in college.
He was jailed for two months, and was only allowed out for track practice. He served an additional 19 days in the slammer after a drunk driving rap.
"That was a part of my life where I just didn't have respect for the law," Jennings said. "I didn't realize my whole life could be totally messed up just because of driving with a suspended licence or driving drunk or getting caught with marijuana.
"It's a blessing to be here right now."
To suggest Jennings is running from his past, though, is missing the mark. In fact, he'd like to return to his old digs and start a program that provides troubled youth with what he calls "backing."
For now, though, his top priority is running back punts for the Red & White.
Jennings is all about flashy first impressions. He showed up at the Giants' Super Bowl ring ceremony in late May behind the wheel of a monster truck. One year before that, he arrived at training camp in the Big Apple in a custom-made shirt that featured his photo, a photo of Giants boss Tom Coughlin and the words 'Coach, I'm ready! Put me in!'
If he arrives in the endzone tomorrow night, he promises to mark the occasion.
"If I cross that line, I will do something special," Jennings said. "Right now, I just want to really focus on crossing the endzone -- that'd be a big dream for me. But if I was to cross it (tomorrow) night, I'll have to do a little something."[url=http://calsun.canoe.ca/Sports/Football/2008/09/11/6731691-sun.html]http://calsun.canoe.ca/Sports/Football/ ... 1-sun.html[/url]