SAN JOSE — Growing up, twins Tre and Andrew Jenkins did everything together. From homework to playing sports, the two were inseparable.
This fall, as seniors, they are teaming up in the San Jose State secondary to try and help the Spartans capture their second conference title in four seasons and play in consecutive bowl games for the first time since 1987.
“We want to win the Mountain West championship,” Andrew said. “That’s been the goal since day one.”
The Jenkins brothers were sophomores on the 2020 squad that had an undefeated regular season and won SJSU’s first Mountain West championship.
Tre was a starting safety on that squad, earning second-team All-Mountain West honors, and has been an honorable mention pick after each of the past two seasons. Andrew has been a key contributor primarily on special teams but is vying for a starting role at safety opposite his brother this season.
“I want to be known as one of the best top safeties in the conference,” Tre said. “I feel like my stats in the years past I’ve proven that, but at the end of the day, I really don’t care about the accolades. If I can help my team get to a Mountain West championship and win, individual stats and preseason honors don’t mean anything to me. What’s gonna happen at the end of the season is what’s more important to me.”
It’s easy to spot the Jenkins brothers on the practice field. Whether it’s during pre-practice stretching or scrimmages, the twins are often the loudest and most energetic players on the field. They give out pointers about different coverages, cheer their teammates after a big stop, or crack jokes to keep the defense loose.
“There’s no question both Trey and Andrew are incredible leaders for our program,” said SJSU head coach Brent Brennan whose team opens the season on Aug. 26 at No. 6 ranked USC.
The Spartans defense is in transition after losing several key players — notably linemen Cade Hall and Villami Fehoko — from last season’s team that went 7-5 and played in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
The secondary might be the anchor to the defense this season, and it comes as no surprise to those who know the Jenkins brothers that the tandem has carved out prominent roles on the field and in the locker room at San Jose State.
Twin brothers Andrew Jenkins (third from left) and Tre Jenkins (#22) practice Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, next to head coach Brent Brennan (far right) in San Jose, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
“They were always super competitive,” said Tony Franks, their football coach at Stockton’s St. Mary’s High. “I could tell that these two twin brothers had grown up around sports and competition with a strong athletic background.”
Their dad, Aaron Jenkins Jr., played running back for the University of Washington in the late 1980s. And their grandfather, Aaron Jenkins Sr., played two seasons for the Iowa State basketball team in the late 1960s, where he averaged 14.9 points per game for the Cyclones.
Aaron Jenkins Jr. said the twins’ competitive nature developed during their childhood backyard pickup games as well as their aim to be straight-A students in the classroom.
“Andrew was always trying to catch up to Tre athletically while Tre was trying to catch up to Andrew academically,” Aaron Jenkins Jr. said.
Tre was more of a natural athlete, their dad said. Andrew, who was born minutes after Tre, was a physical late bloomer, standing just 5 feet, 1 inches tall as a high school freshman. Heading into this season, SJSU lists Andrew as 5-foot-9, 194 pounds, and Tre at 5-11, 216.
The Jenkins twins led the Rams to the San Joaquin Section title game in 2018, but their paths were very different when it came time for college recruiting.
Tre, a two-time all-league player, was widely recruited by Division I schools and eventually accepted an offer to play at SJSU. Andrew received some interest, but not from any Division I schools.
But instead of going their separate ways for the first time, Andrew decided to follow Tre and walk-on at SJSU. Andrew made his Spartans debut in 2019, a season after Tre.
“One of the reasons why Andrew is successful is because he’s got so much heart,” Aaron Jenkins Jr. said. “He doesn’t give up, doesn’t quit. He just puts his head down and works.”
Tre was fourth on the Spartans last season with 60 tackles and second with two interceptions (as well as two sacks). Andrew had 16 tackles, mostly on special teams, but Brennan said he envisions Andrew playing a prominent role this season.
“(Andrew’s) a core starter on all of our special teams,” Brennan said. “He’s got a great voice. He’s like a coach on the field, and so he’s going to be a guy that’s going to play some on defense which is going to be exciting for him and exciting for us.”
Though very similar on the field, Andrew and Tre’s personalities are very different off the field which was evident when they were kids.
Tre grew up as the quiet, more reserved personality of the two. Andrew was the outgoing, life-of-the-party type of kid whose energy was infectious.
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“People always said Tre resembled my personality more than anyone because he and I are more of the quiet ones,” Aaron Jenkins Jr. said. “Andrew definitely resembles my wife. They are both very outgoing and energetic.”
Off the field, the two take pride in their academics along with the work they do in their community.
Andrew is a four-time SJSU President’s Scholar award winner and a two-time Mountain West Scholar Athlete. Tre has won numerous awards for his work off the field, and on Aug. 3, he was named to the 2023 Wuerffel Trophy watch list, an award that goes to the FBS player who “best combines exemplary community service with leadership achievement on and off the field,” according to the National College Football Awards Association.
“They’re so intelligent, they’re so bright,” Franks said. “They always did so well in school and just kind of handled everything about being a football player so well.”
Tre Jenkins (#22) and Andrew Jenkins (#27), twins and star defensive backs with the San Jose State football team, pause for a moment after practice, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, in San Jose, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)