May 19, 2010
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One is known for his play on the basketball court and the other for his play on the football field, but despite starring in different sports, John Jenkins and Wesley Tate have been linked for years.
Natives of Hendersonville, Tenn., just north of Nashville, the two became household names in high school for their prominence on the playing field. If one wasn’t having his highlights shown on the local news on Friday nights, the other likely was.
The two shared the spotlight for the class of 2009, but once both arrived at Vanderbilt they shared more than just the spotlight—they shared a room. Beginning in August, the two Sumner County natives roomed together in the Commons.
Although they were linked together as being the top two high school athletes in the area, each knew little about the other besides what they saw on T.V. or read in the paper until they moved in together.
Despite growing up less than five miles apart, the two never attended the same school. Jenkins played basketball at Station Camp High School, a public school. Tate played football and basketball at Pope John Paul II High School, a private school. The only interaction they had with one another came during early meetings on the basketball court when both were involved with AAU basketball.
“I never had to guard him, but I remember that he’s a really good player and he’s got pretty good hops,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins was the first to commit to Vanderbilt and signed in November 2008. Tate would sign a few months later, in February.
Since Jenkins was the lone freshman signee on the men’s basketball team, he was able to select a roommate, which led him to Tate. Jenkins connected with Tate by sending him messages on Facebook to see if he’d be interested in rooming together.
“We decided it would be a good idea to room together since he was the only freshman coming in,” Tate said. “He wanted to room with me and I wanted to room with him, so the coaches worked it out so the two of us could room together.”
The time spent together has only emboldened a friendship that appeared to be natural from the outset. The two didn’t know much about each other when they stepped on Vanderbilt’s campus in August, but now each considers the other as a best friend.
“It’s been really fun,” Jenkins said. “We’re like brothers now. He was always the guy in football in our county, and I was the guy in basketball. Now, we’re always around each other, and it’s something I’ll always take with me.”
Although any down time was a rarity for the roommates, being from the area and having the opportunity to room together enabled Tate and Jenkins to make the short trip home together on a few occasions.
“It’s good to get away sometimes and get back to where you’re from, and that’s something we’re fortunate to do being local,” Jenkins said.
However, rooming together did not come without its challenges. Because the two play sports that fall during different times of the year, one person’s busy time is often the other’s down time and vice versa.
“It’s been interesting, but we kind of understand when the other one needs sleep,” Tate said. “Sometimes when I’m most busy, he doesn’t have as much to do. And when he’s in season, I don’t have as much to do. We have different schedules.”
The different schedules led to many early-morning wakeup calls for one or the other throughout the year.
“When I have conditioning at six, the alarm will go off and he’ll say, ‘Cut that off, man,’” Jenkins said. “Other than that, it’s not too bad. We’ve gotten used to everything. In the beginning it was a little different, but as the year has gone on, we’ve become used to it.”
The two had many high moments during their freshman year, but also faced much adversity. Tate redshirted as a freshman and then suffered a foot injury that kept him out of spring drills. Jenkins spent time in the hospital with a stomach virus.
“When I found out I was redshirting, I was kind of down about that, and he was there to give me advice,” Tate said. “I would also try to help him out being the only freshman on the team. We both had some tough times, and we would give each other encouragement.”
Bad luck seemed to strike at the same time for the roommates. While Jenkins was in the hospital in late January with a stomach virus, Tate broke his foot.
“They both kind of happened at the same time,” Tate said. “I was up all hours taking care of him when he was sick, but I don’t mind it because he’s my best friend.”
The two are no longer in high school, but it doesn’t stop them from reminiscing about those days and jabbing one another about who the better athlete was.
“We go back and forth about who the best high school athlete was, and we reminisce about past games,” Tate said.
Now as roommates and best of friends, the two will have much more to reminisce about for years to come after they finish at Vanderbilt.