James Clemens’ “Bookends” Set Pace For 2023 Jets
MADISON- “I know most teams don’t have the luxury of having two top caliber players at defensive ends like we do,” said Nate Jennings, one of the two “Bookends” for James Clemens as he and fellow senior Jaylen Brown handle the defensive end play for the Jets in 2023.
Both Jennings (6-foot-4, 260-pounds) and Brown (6-foot-6, 242-pounds) have made a mark in the defensive schemes for the Jets and have been highly recruited by a parade of colleges as Jennings committed to South Alabama (USA) and will sign with the school just prior to graduating in December while Brown recently committed to sign with the Tigers of Missouri and has yet to announce his signing date intentions. Neither of the talented student-athletes are thinking ahead as the 2023 season is just beginning and both have something to prove and want to leave a legacy of being top players at their crafts.
“We both know our assignments as we feed off each other and it’s difficult for teams to keep both of us contained,” said Jennings. “For me, I have a nose for the football and I use my techniques to work my way through blockers, look for the ball and pursue at 100-percent.”
“I look at the tackle or tight end that’s in front of me and I use a variety of moves such as the swing move or swipe move along with what the coaches call the strike technique in my play,” said Brown, who has an 82-inch wingspan. “I use my long arms to my advantage.”
Having two elite players on the defensive line is something James Clemens head coach Chad McGehee doesn’t take for granted. He said of his two “Bookends,” “Nate is as good as player I’ve coached. His ceiling is unlimited as he’s the whole package. Jaylen is a blessing to have on board, especially since he began playing football not long ago.”
Despite being always bigger than most of his friends while he grew up in both Decatur and Madison, Brown never attempted to play football until his sophomore year at James Clemens, but did not see playing time until last season when he quickly grew into an elite player. Brown said of his beginnings in the sport, “My older brother, Jaden, was a wide receiver for the team and my mother asked me to try to play football. My first days on the field I was very clumsy. I started to study football while at home and I watched my position during games on TV. It was not an overnight success.”
Clumsy is a good description of Brown’s first experience at football. Matter of fact, he gained the nickname of “Bambie” from one of the coaches who saw him and Jennings working out on a nearby baseball field. The coach could tell Brown was athletic, but clumsy and awkward. The coach said Brown looked like a young deer, thus nicknamed him “Bambie.”
“He has certainly outgrown his nickname with his elite skills,” said Jennings, of his fellow Bookend, and who himself began playing youth football at age five.
“I played above my age my whole life as I was always bigger than the other kids,” said Jennings, who has been an outstanding AAU basketball player until he gave up that sport after last school year and has earned the nickname of “Big Nate.” “I played almost all the positions in football and didn’t turn to defensive line until I came to James Clemens. I suffered a bad knee injury and missed my entire freshman season and had to come back from that incident.”
“I always knew he was special,” said his mother, Chrisonia Jennings. “He’s determined and dedicated to the game and his classroom studies. When he was in the fifth grade, I had a dream he was going to go all the way in football.”
“I learned a lot from Nate as I ask advice from him all the time and he never hesitates to answer my question,” said Brown. “I joined football for fun and didn’t know much about the game and, of course, recruiting like I’ve gone through.”
Brown has been in talks with 20-plus schools such as Houston, Maryland and Arkansas State, but he chose Missouri indicating he liked their coaching staff and the campus facilities.
When the Jets line up on any given Friday night the numbers 90 and 93 can be easily seen among the colors of Carolina Blue, navy and white as each have sculpted physiques and look like elite players. Once on defense, players, coaches and fans alike look to the ends of the line and feel fortunate to have the “Bookends” ready to take it to their opponents unlike any other program in the Tennessee Valley.