Corey Jenks entered his freshman year at Eastern Kentucky University eager to join the school’s hockey team. After overcoming many obstacles, he was able to shine for the Ice Colonels as a result of a very special gift.
Jenks, now a sophomore environmental science major from Thompson’s Station, Tenn., plays left wing on the ice. He is the youngest of six children and recalls the overwhelming support from his family while playing hockey in Middle Tennessee – most notably with the Junior Predators in Nashville.
“The one sibling who stuck out the most was my brother Calvin,” Jenks said. “He pushed me the hardest, for sure.”
Calvin Jenks worked as a Tennessee state trooper in Tipton County. On Jan. 6, 2007, a routine traffic stop went tragically wrong when two men fatally shot him.
“That morning is a day I will never forget,” Jenks recalled. “Hearing the news that you had not only lost your brother, but your best friend, was devastating.”
Seven years later, Jenks graduated from high school in 2014 ready to begin school at EKU. However, between out-of-state tuition and hockey expenses, he thought he had hit a road block.
“That’s when I found out that Calvin had paid for almost all of my college,” Jenks said. “I was left speechless.”
Thanks to his brother’s gift and years of Jenks’ own hard work, he was invited to attend the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s All-Star Showcase in Philadelphia, Pa., at the conclusion of the 2014-2015 season.
Jenks was chosen to compete with the Independent Division II Conference team, which draws from a pool of 82 schools and selects only 23 players from across the country who excelled in both academics and athletics.
“I was able to play with guys from all over the world, like Sweden and Finland,” Jenks said. “I was pretty much the only player from the south. Everyone kept telling me I talked funny.”
The showcase challenged teams to a five-game schedule, but rankings were evaluated based on individual period performance. Jenks’ team went 5-0, but lost two periods, finishing third in the showcase.
“Corey playing in the showcase was not only a great opportunity for him, but it was also a chance for the program as a whole to feature our growing talent,” said EKU Head Coach Joel Cormier. “We expect even better things from Corey in his second season.”
Being a better player and person is something Jenks strives for on a daily basis as a reflection of the kind of man his older brother Calvin was, who was also an athlete.
Calvin grew up playing baseball, donning the No. 10. At EKU and in the ACHA Showcase Jenks wore the No. 5 in honor of his brother.
“I never got the chance to thank him, but someday I will,” Jenks said. “I wear the No. 5 because I hope to be half the man my brother was. I look up to him every single day.”