Until, that is, one of the students referred to him as “sir.”
Jennings first response was a double take, as if to say, “Are you talking to me?” But later, he smiled and offered, “That’s OK. I remember the pep rallies we had in high school, so I got really excited out there being in front of the kids.”
Actually, it was almost 10 years ago that Jennings was graduating from Suwanee High School in Florida.
But Jennings, who is all of 27, didn’t let that dampened the spirited occasion. He was on hand as part of the “Heroes in the Classroom” program sponsored by Symetra. The Seahawks participate by honoring 24 Seattle Public School teachers each football season – three at every home game during the regular season. Two schools are then selected to receive a $15,000 grant to purchase computers and science equipment.
“This was a no-brainer for me,” Jennings said of accepting the invitation to appear at the school. “I always loved anything to do with education. Then when I found out how old some of the equipment was that is being replaced, that made it even more appealing.”
Jennings doesn’t just talk about being a scholar-athlete, he was. As a junior at Suwanee, he was the winner of the school’s scholar-athlete award after compiling a 3.42 grade-point average. Then it was on the University of Miami, where he completed a double major in finance and business administration.
He’s still fluent in the language of science and mathematics, which connected with the 1,000-plus students that attended the rally on the school’s football field.
“I was a math guy. I loved math,” Jennings told the students, which draw a smattering of applause.
Then he added, “I liked my science studies, too, but the most challenging course for me was chemistry and just trying to get that stuff figured out.” This time, the students displayed their approval with a chorus of agreeable groans.
Jennings then drew some not-so-obvious parallels between his current life on the football field and his past life as an honor student who actually had an affinity to math and science.
Like meteorology. “That’s one of the first things I have to look at,” he said. “I want to know what the weather is going to be like. What kind of cleats am I going to have to put on? That’s the mindset you have to be in, because the weather affects a lot of things that we do on the field.”
Like anatomy. “I’ve had a few surgeries and a few injuries – things that, in talking to the trainers, you really get to understand your body and how it works and what a machine it is,” he said.
Like physics. “Just hitting the receiver and knowing how to line it up, where to hit him to produce the most impact,” he said.
Somewhere, Jennings’ mother was smiling during all that.
“Those are the things I really focused on and put my time into,” he said. “My mother always said that once I get that in my head then nobody can take it away from me. So I really held onto that.”
But how long will it take Jennings to get being called “sir” out of his head?
“You know what? One of the rookies that just came in, he refers to me as an ‘old man,’ ” Jennings, the Seahawks’ first-round draft choice in 2006, said after his part in the assembly.
That would be Earl Thomas, the just-turned 21-year-old free safety who was the second of the Seahawks’ first-round picks this year.
“Earl made a comment about, ‘I really like the old guys,’ ” Jennings said. “And I was one of the guys he was talking about. I’m like, ‘I’m only 27.’ But it just shows me how much older I am getting.
“It is weird.”