MOBILE, Ala. – University of South Alabama football inside linebacker Shawn Jennings recently sat down with USAJaguars.com to discuss why he chose to transfer from Alabama to South, his relationship with head coach Kane Wommack and what he likes most about playing linebacker, among other things.
Jennings, a senior from Dadeville, Ala., has been a member of the Jaguar program since the 2016 season after beginning his career at Alabama. Jennings sat out his first two years with the program due to NCAA transfer rules and an injury, but has played in 23 games over the past three seasons. This fall, he has appeared in eight contests and recorded 26 total tackles (12 solo and 14 assisted), while two of his three tackles for loss have been sacks. The 6-foot-1 linebacker has also been credited with a pass break up and forced two fumbles.
You have had several ups and downs during your career here at South Alabama. What have you learned over that stretch?
“It’s better to be socially involved with your teammates and coaches, because you never know when your playing time is going to end. It’s always great to be involved with the community, talk to people, express your feelings and see how people are doing. It’s best to get to know people, because at the end of the day that’s the main thing that matters – relationships.”
You began your college career at Alabama, but talk to me about how you ended up transferring to South?
“[My] Playing time, my coaches left and just a lot of different things went into that decision for me. I felt like it was best for me to transfer, so I could get on the field more so could people could see my name out there.”
What about South Alabama stuck out to you and made you feel like this was the place for you to transfer to?
“Coach [Kane] Wommack. He was the first person who reached out to me, and the relationship I developed with him was a big part of my decision to come here. I was planning on going to whomever reached out to me first and it was a good thing that it was Kane. Our relationship was pretty tight. As soon as I got here, he showed me around and had me over for dinner at his house, which was nice. It showed me how much he cared about his players. It was amazing to see how everyone bonded and enjoyed their time together.”
What did you take away from your brief time with the Tide program?
“The main thing I learned from [head coach Nick] Saban was be where your feet are at all times. That was something he talked about every day – always be locked into whatever you’re doing. Never let your mind wander, just be locked into the job at hand.”
You come from an athletic family as your older brother was a linebacker at Alabama (2015-19), and your uncle, Brad Ford, also played for The Tide at cornerback for two seasons and appeared in 14 games for the Detroit Lions during the 1996 National Football League season. What have you taken away from each of their experiences that has helped you during your career?
“Just enjoy your time and play to the best of your ability, but always know that there’s life outside of football. That’s the main thing they taught me, enjoy your time on and off the field.”
You were here during Coach Wommack’s first tenure as defensive coordinator. Describe your relationship with him both in his former role and in his current role as the head coach.
“The first time it was more getting to know him and seeing my way around, but now I feel like we’re closer. Our relationship is much better than before and I feel like I can talk to him about anything. That’s good for me – to be more open with the coach.”
How have you improved since you arrived on campus and what’s the biggest change that you have made?
“I’ve become a faster player than when I first got here. I lost a lot of weight. I’ve also just tried to lock in on the small details of the game with my eyes and hand placement on certain things. I’ve gotten a lot better with my gap schemes and just doing the little things right.
What do you like most about playing linebacker? Why?
“Hitting people. I wouldn’t say I’m a big hitter, but I love hitting people. It’s just who I am I guess. I’m a defensive-minded person, because I play every position on the field, but I would say I like hitting people more than I like getting hit.”
Do you prefer to play on the inside or the outside? Why?
“I don’t really care – I just like football. Wherever you put me at, I will play.”
Does that mentality come from your days of playing safety in high school?
“Pretty much. Coming downhill and hitting people was my favorite thing to do, so it just stuck with me.”
What type of role have you assumed on this team as one of the seniors?
“I would say I’m one of the leaders, but I’m not a very vocal guy. I’m more of a lead-by-example type of guy.”
The defense faces a tough challenge with Coastal Carolina’s offense this weekend. What are some things the defense needs to do in order to be successful against the Chanticleers?
“Backside pursuit needs to be great. We need to wrap up and tackle. Our eyes need to be in the right position, because I know they’re going to do a lot of options. They have two different offenses depending on personnel. So, the defense needs to be locked into that and everyone needs to play sound gap [defense] and make good tackles.”
With this being senior day, how do you want to end your career and what do you want fans to remember you for?
“I would like to be remembered as a player who gave it his all on the field, no matter what the circumstances. Even if I got hurt, just know I would give it my all every time I went out on the field – that’s what I want to be remembered for.”
I know you’ll have family members at the game with it being Senior Day. How many family members do you expect to have there on Friday?
“About four or five – my mom, grandparents and a couple of my cousins.”
How do you want to close out your career?
“With a win, of course, and a bowl game.”
You earned your degree from South in May, and you’re working toward a second degree in sport management and recreation studies. What do you want to do with those degrees after your football career is over?
“Coach, of course. I also want to get into real estate and see how far I can go with that. But mainly coaching, that’s the biggest goal for me after football because I always want to be around not just football, but around sports. It’s just who I am.”
Who has had the biggest influence on your life?
“My older brother, he’s taught me everything I know. He’s always been there for me if I needed someone to talk to or tell my problems to. Same for him too, I’ve always been there for him. He’s been my influence and my role model.”
What do you like to do in your spare time?
“Hang out with friends, play video games, fish, cook sometimes, hunt. Pretty much anything.”
Living along the Gulf Coast, do you prefer saltwater or freshwater fishing?
“I prefer freshwater but you can’t go wrong with saltwater fishing, especially for red snappers. It’s always a good time to fish on the ocean.”
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