Joe Jenkins: UVA Football

Joe Jenkins
  • Class of: Educ ’76 (Major: speech pathology and audiology)
  • Hometown: Madison, VA
  • Current City: Charlottesville, VA
  • Current Job: Vice President of Hanckel Citizens Insurance
  • Bodo’s Order: Depends on time of day—my order has evolved with the menu. Either chicken salad with bacon and muenster on everything, OR bacon, egg, cheese and extra bacon

Tell us your UVA story.

I came to UVA from Madison County High School as a football recruit. I had planned to go to Duke instead, but when I told some of my friends about my choice, they encouraged me to come to UVA with them so that we could turn things around in their football program. Coming from Madison County in the seventies, I was really trying to be cool—long hair and a mustache, ruffled shirt, bell bottoms, and I drove an El Camino! But I definitely got some stares from the prep school guys, so it didn’t take me very long to get what was “cool” at the University of Virginia.

Being involved with football gave me built-in friends, and I even traveled to games as a first year, which was a big deal. A lot of good people who attend UVA take their education seriously, but I was more focused on being social. My best friends and I always had a great time.

What’s your favorite UVA memory?

I can think of so many instances, but one that sticks out involves a couple of my closest friends, one of whom always had trouble getting dates. We’d always give him grief him for it, but he had managed to secure a date on Easters weekend. Our other friend and I walked into his apartment to check up on him and we saw him holding a hot Coke bottle wrapped in a wet cloth to put down a zit on his forehead—but all that did was make it worse! We felt for him, of course, but it was also really funny.

What was your journey after leaving UVA?

I had that moment of ‘now what?’ after I graduated. I tried out for the NFL and met a lot of pro players. Overall it was a wonderful experience, and I even played in two scrimmages and a pre-season game, but I ended up getting cut. I took a year to get licensed in insurance and then worked at a small agency in Culpeper, but once I got trained I decided I didn’t like it.

A friend helped me get a job in telemarketing and then I moved into real estate for three years, but seeing as it was during the Carter administration, there wasn’t much money to be had in that line of work. I worked a few other jobs before returning to the insurance field in 1983, and I never looked back. My wife and I live in Charlottesville and we have two sons—one living in Baltimore and one who just graduated from UVA in May 2019.

What’s something you learned at UVA that you apply to your life now?

When you’re in a diverse grouping of intelligent kids, you learn how to communicate differently, how to read people, how to network, how to reach out and how to interact with different kinds of people.

What makes you say Wahoowa?

The good memories of my time there. Every time you say it, something comes to mind.

What does being a UVA alumnus mean to you?

I feel very lucky to have attended, especially with a football scholarship. I was the second person in my family to have gone to college and I feel a great sense of pride having been given the opportunity. I never really left Grounds, even after graduation.

How do you stay connected with UVA and other alumni, and why is that important?

It used to be only my immediate friend group that I kept in contact with, but now I stay in touch with everyone through cookouts, games, et cetera. Nowadays, more alumni are connecting with young alumni and helping open new doors for them.

Tell us the biggest way in which you hope alumni can help impact UVA.

UVA and its administration should reach out to alumni to ask them questions about what really needs to change at the University.