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NEWS FROM THE LOCKHEED MARTIN ARMED FORCES BOWL

By: GIL LEBRETON

glebreton@star-telegram.com

Star-Telegram


TCU found a fitting place to honor Fort Worth’s poet laureate, Dan Jenkins

The field, not the press box, is the constant in the Dan Jenkins-TCU story.

The end zone bleachers where he used to sit as a kid and watch the canvas-trousered Horned Frogs play have been leveled and reconstructed. The old Amon G. Carter Stadium press box with its stratospheric vantage point and hand-operated elevator was humanely imploded in 2010.

But the stadium’s playing field remains, linking the two glory eras of TCU football and bridging the remarkable writing career of a man who, by any standard, reigns as the poet laureate of Fort Worth.

“I feel like I’m married to this stadium in many ways, certainly to the field,” Jenkins said Tuesday at TCU. “I’ve been coming to this football field since I was 7 years old. I’m probably one of the last people still around who saw Sam Baugh and Davey O’Brien play on this field.

“I won’t say it warped me, but it did have a lot to do with wanting to be a sportswriter some day.”

Seventy years and more than 500 Sports Illustrated articles and 24 books later, Dan Jenkins’ legacy found a fitting showcase Tuesday. The football stadium press box was formally named the Dan Jenkins Press Box.

“Awards are great,” said Jenkins, 87 years young, “especially when you can be vertical to receive them.”

His writing has made millions smile and laugh, but Jenkins said he wasn’t feeling very funny Tuesday. Instead, he said, “I’m feeling grateful.”

When he was handed a pair of scissors to formally cut the purple ribbon, Jenkins said, “This is actually embarrassing.

“An honor like this is especially important when you reach this stage of my development. I do take it as a very encouraging sign.”

He was hired by the late Blackie Sherrod at the old Fort Worth Press while still a high school student at Paschal. Jenkins’ audience grew exponentially, however, when he moved to Sports Illustrated and later became a fixture on best-seller lists with novels such as “Semi-Tough,” “Dead Solid Perfect” and “Baja Oklahoma.”

“He’s smart and he’s funny,” said Jerre Todd, a former colleague of Jenkins at the Press and his frequent partner in semi-crime. “Dan Jenkins is a treasure and always will be.”

Jenkins’ wife June and daughter Sally, a decorated sports columnist herself at the Washington Post, were among the audience at Tuesday’s ceremony.

“This probably means as much to him as anything he’s ever won,” Sally said, “just because his heart and soul are in this stadium.”

Even in this, the eighth decade in which he’s written, Jenkins’ wit and confident style endure. He introduced us to Billy Clyde Puckett and Shake Tiller. He originated the line about the Masters not starting “until the back nine on Sunday.”

“I wish I had copyrighted that,” Jenkins said.

In “Baja Oklahoma,” he also gave us “The 10 Stages of Drunkenness,” a fixture on the walls of men’s rooms in every state.

Examples:

Stage 9 — Invisible.

Stage 10 — Bulletproof.

Jenkins said again Tuesday that when he passes on, he wants his tombstone to read, “I knew this would happen.”

Let it be recorded, though, that it was the TCU press box, not a headstone, that bore Dan Jenkins’ name Tuesday.

“When you get to be old, they start giving you awards,” he said. “The trick is to live long enough. They just start running out of people to give them to or something.

“I would have been a lot funnier today if I wasn’t so touched.”