When the NFL schedules came out, many people thought about Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers facing his old team the New England Patriots in Week 4.
It will be Brady’s homecoming in New England.
The rest of the sports world can focus on Brady going back to New England, but there is a more important game for the Clarksdale community.
The Green Bay Packers will be traveling to play the New Orleans Saints in Week 1 on Sept. 12.
This has nothing to do with Drew Brees’ retirement as the Saints quarterback or whether or not Aaron Rodgers will be the Packers quarterback in 2021.
It is about two of our hometown heroes.
Two 2014 Clarksdale High School graduates will be playing one another.
Juantavius “JT” Gray, going into his fourth year in the NFL, is a safety and special teams standout for the Saints.
Elgton Jenkins is a Pro Bowl left guard for the Packers going into his third season.
Jenkins and Gray were both teammates and roommates at Mississippi State University.
They were stars as Wildcats, Bulldogs and now with their NFL teams.
Both Gray and Jenkins have not forgotten their roots. They always find time to come back home, see their families and friends.
That was very evident when Jenkins and Gray signed footballs for members of the community just a few short months ago.
They have made several appearances at Clarksdale High School athletic events. Not much before the COVID pandemic, they were at a Clarksdale basketball game and blended in with the crowd like everyone else.
So what can we expect when these two face one another in the season opener?
I honestly do not know.
Both the Saints and Packers have some serious questions at the quarterback position they need to answer between now and September.
One thing I do know for sure.
Whether Rodgers, second-year quarterback Jordan Love or someone else is under center, Jenkins will be making sure his teammate has plenty of time to throw the football.
Rodgers had a great season in 2020 and certainly earned the MVP honor he received, but Jenkins’ blocking on the line helped make it possible.
Gray will not be on the field at the same time as the quarterback, but I know he, too, will be making things easier for the offense.
He does a little bit of everything. That was on display when he blocked a punt in Chicago against the Bears in 2019.
Why are both Gray and Jenkins the successes they are?
Work ethic and coming from good families certainly has something to do with their success, but I’d also like to think the foundation laid right here in Clarksdale played a role.
That goes all the way back to played for coach Tyrone Smith and the Clarksdale Lumberjacks.
Jenkins and Gray can both play a number of different positions.
Jenkins has played everywhere on the offensive line in the NFL.
Gray is a safety, but he was also a running back in high school and a linebacker his first three years at Mississippi State.
That type of versatility can only help.
I do not know which team will win between the Packers and Saints. I cannot predict how far either team will go in 2021, but I would like to see them face one another once again in the NFC Championship.
One thing I do know is Gray and Jenkins will both give 100 percent and make their hometown proud.
It will be a great “Battle of the Wildcats.” I encourage everyone to watch.