"My very first NFL meeting, Drew Brees made me sing the 'Thong Song,'" Jenkins said, drawing laughs.
That was 2009. Jenkins was fresh out of Ohio State and Brees was entering his fourth season with the New Orleans Saints. The veteran had no problems putting the first-round pick through a little initiation, with an assist from his teammates.
“It wasn’t his selection,” Jenkins clarified. “[Brees] made me get up and sing a song and I asked which one and ... who was it that shouted out? Anthony Hargrove! He shouted out, the ‘Thong Song!’"
The Saints went 13-3 that season and went on to capture their first Super Bowl championship. Brees was dominant, as always, while Jenkins started six games at cornerback and finished his rookie year with an interception, four passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
They spent five seasons together with the Saints before Jenkins left in free agency for Philadelphia, where he developed into one of league's top leaders in his own right and guided the Eagles to their first Lombardi Trophy following the 2017 season. He now has the clout to ask any young player, any time, to get up and sing whatever bad pop song comes into his mind.
Though it's been five seasons since the two played together, the level of respect between Brees and Jenkins remains incredibly high. In front of Sunday's Eagles-Saints matchup, the two shared their thoughts and memories of the other:
Jenkins: He’s been a great example for me in my career of just like, professionalism and preparedness. Somebody who, just being able to watch how he goes about his business -- how on every single snap in practice, he’ll make his throw, and then reset and go through every single read. He knows every look, every detail.
Brees: To me, Malcolm is the Michael Thomas of competitors on the defensive side of the ball. Like the ultimate competitor. Very prideful. Just one of those guys, like the quarterback of the defense, wants to be in for every snap. Every play is make or break. Every play could be the championship. So I always respected that about him. And I respected the fact that he comes in as a first-round pick, he’s playing corner, then playing a lot of slot, then at some point transitions to safety. And just embraces that. And now I’d say because of that skill set he came into this league with, he’s one of the most dynamic, one of the best "hybrid" guys. I mean he plays at linebacker level the majority of the time. He’s a great pressure player. He can cover slot receivers, he can cover tight ends, he covers running backs. He can play the middle of the field. He can play everywhere. He’s like your "do-it-all defensive player." It’s like, "Malcolm, we need you to rush the passer this week. ..." He can do a ton of different things, and it’s because he’s so smart and just so competitive.
Jenkins: I would ask him to evaluate me: "What do you see in my game? What did you see on this play? I felt like I had a good disguise. How did you know?" [Brees would say], "You did almost fool me, but then I saw the linebacker was shaded a little too far." His ability to see all of these details ...
Brees: I’m sure he would credit guys like Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith and [Scott] Fujita and Roman Harper and Jabari Greer and some of the other veteran guys that we had that took him under their wing when he first got here. But he really came into his own early on. I can think about, like ... the two greatest hustle plays in the history of Saints football, and he made both of them. One was Dallas in 2010, Thanksgiving, Roy Williams is breaking it and pretty much game over. And he strips him, gets the ball back, we drive down, score and win the game. And the other one was at Tampa, [it’s going to be a] 95-yard touchdown and he tackles Vincent Jackson at the 2-yard line. We stop ‘em on fourth down, and then we win that game 35-28. That’s Malcolm.
Jenkins: Not surprising [the kind of year Brees is having]. He's been doing it for years, since I came into the league and had an opportunity to watch him work. It's no surprise that he's doing what he does. The amount of preparation and detail that goes into his work, it doesn't just happen by accident what he does on Sunday. And he's got a ton of weapons as well, guys that are playing well, making plays. Their team is feeling it, they're on a roll. ... We're going against probably the best quarterback in the league right now.
Contributing: ESPN Saints reporter Mike Triplett.