When Malcolm Jenkins was a rookie with the New Orleans Saints in 2009, contributing to the team’s march to Super Bowl XLIV victory in the rebuilding city, he and his teammates had swagger. “In an NFL locker room, everyone has means, so they have custom-tailored suits, nice shoes, and a nice bag. It is a fashion show basically,” the six-footer says. “So in an attempt to kind of stand out, I started wearing bow ties and, slowly but surely, it became my calling card.”
This season will be another transition for Jenkins, who comes to the Eagles as a potential defensive savior at the safety position, with a three-year, $16.5-million contract and a mission to help shore up the team’s porous secondary. One constant, however, is his ties, thanks to his new company, Rock Avenue Bow Ties, which incorporated last year.
The collection, named after the main street of his hometown, Piscataway, New Jersey, started somewhat by accident: His wife challenged him to make his own bow tie after a fan chided him for only wearing clip-ons. So he stayed up late one night and made four ties out of a bolt of cloth. Four months later, he was discreetly marketing them online with a variety of styles to choose from, but no mention of his name.
“I don’t want people to buy because I’m a football player. I want them to appreciate the product,” says Jenkins, who is currently exploring local retail outlets and, sans helmet, serves as the brand’s face. “I am in the photos because I like being the model. One thing I have learned is that people in the fashion industry don’t care about sports, but that’s what makes it fun for me. I want to succeed in more than one thing.”
Football-wise, Jenkins feels he is a good fit here. “It reminds me of my first year,” he says. “But now I’ll be stepping into a major role right away.”
He has started to settle in socially, too. “New Orleans has culture and good food, so I was concerned about how to replace that,” he says. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised. My wife, Morrisa, baby daughter, Elle, and I live in Center City, and we really enjoy it. There’s so much going on.”
Off the field (and the runway), he is also looking to expand his Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, which has already awarded more than $60,000 in scholarships in New Orleans, Piscataway, and Columbus, Ohio—his previous three homes—to underprivileged, academically strong students. “I have been able to live a dream,” he says. “And it is never too early to give back.”