kris jenkins celebrates with familyKris Jenkins Just Made History

NCAA March Madness came to a maddening conclusion in 2016. And Cinderella had her moment on stage once again. Although this time she didn’t appear in the form of an underdog team. She looked more like a 6’6″, 240-pound forward wearing a Villanova jersey.

Kris Jenkins entered history with a stunning last second shot to beat North Carolina and awarded his team the crowning achievement of a national championship. Amidst the explosions of streamers and confetti showering the floor, Jenkins did what anyone else would do – celebrated with his teammates and his family. It’s what happened immediately after that told me the most about this young man.

Before I share his interview, it helps to know the compelling story that makes up Jenkins’ childhood.

The Development of A Champion

Like most who rise to his level of skill, Jenkins picked up basketball from a young age. His mother, a former college player herself, helped him learn the fundamentals and develop a passion for the game. Jenkins had opportunities to grow his skill through AAU basketball, playing for a team called the DC Assault. That seemingly small opportunity would open the door to a life-altering transition.

The Jenkins family began to face some significant challenges around this time. Kris’ parents separated. He made a few moves to new areas with his mom. His baby sister became deathly ill, and his mother Felicia, had to care for her at the hospital. During that time, Kris lived with the coach of his AAU team, the Britts. His baby sister ultimately died at just eleven months. Then Felicia took a job as a head basketball coach at a college in South Carolina.

All of these changes began to affect Kris’ behavior. He didn’t completely lose his way, but his mother saw him slipping. One more move away from a community he had built might cause a break. So she made one of the most difficult decisions of her life. As a former military police officer, Felicia knew a thing or two about discipline and sacrifice. When she saw the character of the players on Kris’ AAU team, she took stock in how the coach developed them. Nate Britt Sr. had a 25-year career as a police officer himself. Felicia saw a brighter future for her son than she could offer, so she asked the Britts to take Kris full-time. In 2007, they legally adopted Kris as their own son. That gut-wrenching decision would lead to this pinnacle moment.

In the spotlight of college basketball’s grandest game, Kris Jenkins not only had the loving support of two families, he faced an opposing team that included his brother, Nate Britt Jr. And the two brothers couldn’t have supported each more. You can hardly find a script out of Hollywood this good.

The Mind of A Champion

And the adrenaline-infused ending put the cherry on top. But what hit me most, wasn’t the long three-pointer that sealed the victory. It was a simple interview with CNN behind the basket. “What are you thinking right now? Can you believe what just happened?” asked the reporter. Jenkins’ reply: “I just want to meet Charles Barkley.” I had to laugh. But the poignancy struck me. At the height of his college basketball career, this kid wants to meet one of his heroes. He didn’t stroke his own ego. He didn’t say, “I’m going to Disney World.” He looked for an opportunity to meet a role model. And from his Twitter account, I would say that kind of humility and that growth mindset has shaped Kris Jenkins into the champion he is today. Congratulations to Kris Jenkins and Villanova, 2016 NCAA Champions.

“People are rewarded in public for what they’ve practiced for years in private.” – Tony Robbins (Click to tweet quote.)