NFL Pro Bowlers, Clarksdale High School graduates Gray, Jenkins host second turkey giveaway


By Josh Troy, Clarksdale Advocate

NFL Pro Bowlers Juantavius “JT” Gray and Elgton Jenkins continue giving back to their hometown. Gray and Jenkins, both 2014 Clarksdale High School graduates, organized their second turkey giveaway for Thanksgiving at the Clarksdale Civic Auditorium on Tuesday afternoon. Approximately 400 turkeys purchased from Walmart were given away. Details about the giveaway, along with Gray’s and Jenkins’ pictures, came with each turkey. It was a first-come, first-serve drive-through giveaway.

Gray, a team captain and one-time Pro Bowler, is a special teams standout for the New Orleans Saints and entered the NFL in 2018. Jenkins, a two-time Pro Bowler, is a left guard for the Green Bay Packers and was a second-round draft choice in 2019. Gray and Jenkins were roommates while playing for the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Gray and Jenkins could not be present as the turkeys were being given away as they are preparing for their upcoming games this week. The Packers (4-6) are in the NFC North and will travel to play division opponent Detroit Lions (8-2) at 11:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The Lions are currently in first place. The Saints (5-5) are in first place in the NFC South and will travel to play a division opponent, the Atlanta Falcons (4-6), at noon on Sunday.

Gray’s and Jenkins’ families were at the turkey giveaway on Tuesday.

“I’m very proud,” said Gray’s father, Solomon. “It’s a blessing to be able to give back to the community, and I’m just happy for them. They love their city, and every opportunity they have, they seize that moment and give back. That is in them. We didn’t have to ask for this. They encouraged it. We just follow as the support cast that we are and have been, ever since Day 1.”

Solomon Gray said “discipline,” “being grounded,” “hard work,” and “effort” were keys to Gray’s and Jenkins’ success in the NFL.

“Strong family structure and support have really been key,” Solomon Gray said. Jenkins’ mother, Delandra, expressed similar sentiments.

“They’re just giving back to the community,” she said. “This is where they come from. They just wanted to keep supporting the City of Clarksdale.”

Delandra Jenkins and her family passed out Green Bay Packers souvenirs. T-Shirts from Gray’s and Jenkins’ second annual Backyard Dawgz Youth Football Camp at Clarksdale High School in June were also given away. The Jenkins family wore Green Bay Packers clothing to the turkey giveaway. Delandra’s had Jenkins’ name and his No. 74 on the back of her shirt.

“I’m very proud,” she said. Jenkins has played different positions on the offensive line. Gray has been a running back, linebacker, and safety. Solomon Gray did not know which position his son would excel in when playing in the NFL.

“He just seized the moment in the position that he was blessed to be in,” Solomon Gray said. Gray had to adjust throughout his career at Mississippi State.

“At Mississippi State, playing under four different systems under four defensive coordinators, he had to adjust,” Solomon Gray said. “He just found his niche and he capitalized. That’s where he’s at today.”

Solomon Gray is feeling good about the Saints’ first-place standing in the NFC South.

“If we could get past the Falcons this Sunday, we’ll be looking pretty good,” he said. The Clarksdale Wildcats (9-3, 5-0) were the Region 1-5A Champions in 2023 and are two games away from a state championship. The Wildcats defeated Cleveland Central 41-6 in the first round, Lafayette 21-0 in the second round, and host West Point in the third round at 7 p.m. on Friday. Gray and Jenkins are proud of their school.

“JT actually attended the game last week and was very excited,” Solomon Gray said. “It’s been a long time coming. We’re happy, and we’re going to celebrate after eating these turkeys Thursday. We’re going to go out Friday in support.” Delandra Jenkins agreed.

“They are very proud of them (Wildcats) wishing they could be at the game,” she said. Clarksdale Mayor Chuck Espy attended the turkey giveaway.

“It’s a great day in the City of Clarksdale,” he said. “The Jenkins family, the Gray family, what more can you ask for? NFL superstars doing it like this for the City, come on, man, I’m a grateful mayor, but this speaks volumes. Look at the family. They’re showing love to everyone.”

The line of cars to pick up turkeys went past Delta Muffler on the corner of Third Street and DeSoto Avenue. Coahoma County District 1 Supervisor Paul Pearson is the owner of Delta Muffler, saw the line of cars outside and appreciated what Gray and Jenkins were doing for the community.

“That’s great they’re giving back,” Pearson said. “That’s wonderful. Everybody ought to get a turkey for Thanksgiving.” The Clarksdale Police Department directed traffic, and the Coahoma County Road Department unloaded turkeys.

“We’re here with whatever help they need,” said Joseph Wide of the Coahoma County Road Department, calling Gray and Jenkins “outstanding guys.”

“They’re giving back to the City,” Wide continued. Community advocate Milton Gardner was also at the turkey giveaway.

“There’s a lot of families that are in need of this, so it’s really a blessing,” he said.


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