Renegades' blond ambition

John Jenkins cracks a smile as he answers questions from the media during a press conference...

John Jenkins cracks a smile as he answers questions from the media during a press conference yesterday at Frank Clair Stadium introducing him as the new coach of the Renegades. (Ottawa Sun/Jason Ransom)

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

A Renegades veteran walked into the meeting room of the football building at Frank Clair Stadium yesterday and spotted new coach John Jenkins.

"Wow," said the player, shaking his head, "I sure hope he coaches better than he dresses."

And so began a new era in the perpetually interesting history of football in Ottawa.

The Renegades revealed their worst-kept secret, introducing Jenkins as Joe Paopao's replacement, and the new coach made a statement before even saying a word.

RED COWBOY BOOTS

The 53-year-old Texan, led into the room by Renegades president Lonie Glieberman and GM Forrest Gregg for a press conference, showed why he's considered one of the more flamboyant characters in football.

The former coach of the University of Houston Cougars was outfitted sharply, sporting a black pin-striped suit, a red and black silk tie, and red cowboy boots for his inauguration.

And, to his credit, the ensemble included a poppy.

"John is a real conservative dresser," joked Gregg, who has assumed the title of GM to go along with his role as the club's VP of football operations.

Jenkins arrived in Ottawa on Sunday, bringing nothing conservative with him on his coaching resume.

Known for an attacking offence with an emphasis on a passing game which exploits an opponent's weaknesses, he coached the Cougars to a 10-1 record in 1990 and saw his team climb to No. 3 in the NCAA rankings.

But the Cougars followed that performance with back-to-back 4-7 seasons, and Jenkins resigned following the 1992 campaign.

Thirteen years later, Jenkins wouldn't make any promises about how the Renegades will perform in the upcoming seasons.

"I can't wave a magical wand," he said. "I wish I could. But I can say this: That there's an awful lot of talent here. I will acknowledge that and I'm excited about that.

"I'm not going to make any predictions, but there's going to be some definitive goals," he said. "Obviously, the first one is to make the playoffs."

Faced with a situation in which the Renegades' front office is being openly questioned by many players over its fumbled handling of Paopao's dismissal, Gregg called a mandatory meeting with players yesterday to meet the new coach.

Most of them showed, including quarterback Kerry Joseph, running back Josh Ranek, offensive lineman George Hudson and defensive lineman Jerome Haywood, all whom have uncertain futures with the club.

Jenkins introduced himself during the meeting that lasted 30 minutes.

"He comes in with a lot of energy, a lot of focus," said defensive lineman Marc Pilon.

Ranek, who is eligible for free agency in February and has been approached by the club to re-sign, won't rush into a deal.

"I want to make sure that I sit down 1-on-1 with John to see what kind of staff he's going to bring in, and get all the information I think I need before I make a decision," he said.

Yesterday's announcement cap-ped a whirlwind weekend for every member of the Renegades organization.

It began on Friday when Paopao held a farewell press conference, followed by an emotional game day on Saturday when the Renegades beat the Argos 27-17 to let their outgoing coach leave on a winning note.

Then on Sunday, Paopao and members of his coaching staff met with players for a final time before cleaning out their offices.

"It's a lot to take in, in a short period of time," said Ranek. "But at the same time, this meeting was a necessary step for (Jenkins) just to see the players, look at us eye-to-eye and go from there."

MEETS WITH PLAYERS

Joseph, who enters a $300,000 club option on his contact next season, said yesterday's meeting was interesting.

"It was totally quiet, silence. We listened to him," said Joseph. "No one had any questions for him. He just told us about his focus on where he wanted to go as leader of this team."

While the future of higher profile players remains a question, the Renegades announced long-term deals with four veterans: linebacker Donnavan Carter, import defensive back Bo Rogers, punter Pat Fleming and import defensive back Da'Shann Austin.

Rogers and Austin received five-year deals, while Carter and Fleming agreed to four-year contracts.

Jenkins will remain in Ottawa until Friday before returning to the U.S. to continue scouting players for the 2006 season.

"The best thing I can say about John is that he's comfortable in his own skin," said Gregg. "He knows what he wants to do and I don't have to worry about whether he's going to do it my way, or the highway.

"John's going to do it his way."


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