STRATFORD—New Bunnell High School football coach Tywan Jenkins had just introduced himself to approximately 50 of Bulldog players when he asked them if they knew the time.
Was it time for a new beginning? Was it time to change the culture? Was it time to go home, already?
“At 2:47 this afternoon, we became family,” Jenkins said.
And with that statement the 26-year-old Jenkins, a New London native and former Southern Connecticut State University offensive lineman, showed why he was in charge of the Bulldogs’ program.
Jenkins replaces Sean Mignone, who stepped down after this most recent season following five-plus years as head coach.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do since I put on a helmet,” said Jenkins, who had spent the last two seasons at the defensive coordinator at Stamford. “The day I stopped playing at Southern, I picked up a clipboard the next day.”
It was that type of passion along with his vision for the future that attracted Jenkins to the search committee, according to Bunnell athletic director Wayne Thrall.
“We were really impressed with the vision he had for the program,” Thrall said. “He seems like a player’s coach. We had players as part of the interview process and they really seemed to connect with him and were drawn to what he’s selling.”
Jenkins is not at Bunnell to rebuild the program, not after two state tournament appearances over the last three seasons.
“The prior head coach and his staff did a great job getting this program going in the right direction,” Thrall said. “Now we’re looking for Ty and his staff to build upon it and take us to the next level. He dove in head first, he’s 100 percent committed and I’m excited to see what he can do for the program.”
Fans should expect a different look for the Bunnell program, however.
“Not to reveal too much, but we’ll be different,” Jenkins said. “Bunnell has been a spread team for a long time, and we’ll have that look, but we’ll have different philosophies. I know we have athletes and I’ll utilize those athletes in different ways.”
Jenkins doesn’t feel the pressure of taking over at a successful program.
“Pressure makes diamonds, so let’s go get some rings,” Jenkins quipped.
“Our goal is just to go 1-0 each week,” he added. “This year’s schedule is going to test us, so if we go 1-0 each week, we’ll be forged by fire and ready to go for a state championship.”
Jenkins has had a number of small ties to Bunnell over the years, connections that made it an appealing place to start his head coaching career.
In 2010, his senior year at New London, his team defeated Brookfield 30-12 at Bunnell to advance to the Class M state title game.
While playing center at Southern Connecticut, he had two teammates he was close with that were both from Bunnell, as well.
“I had been offered a few jobs, but it wasn’t the right spot,” Jenkins said. “I was never going to jump to just any job. This job meant a lot to me. It was important to me to find the right school, the right administration and finding the right people to see my vision.”
Jenkins said the feel of Bunnell athletics reminds him of what it felt like when he was at New London.
“Where I’m from, New London, it has a great sports culture,” Jenkins said. “I see a lot of similarities between New London and Bunnell and I know what that means with the right coach.”
A teacher in the Norwalk Public School system, Jenkins is excited to head his own program, even at such a young age.
“A lot of people wonder why I jumped so early, but I was ready,” he said. “I have so many ideas and when I talk to people, they can’t believe I’m this young. I’ve always been the guy that people say, ‘You seem so much older.’ When I was 17, that was pretty good now it’s now it’s like, ‘Please, don’t date me.’”
His youth might also provide a strong connection with his players, as his future Bulldogs noticed during the interview process.
“He brought great energy and had a positive vibe,” junior linebacker James Savko said. “He doesn’t want to reboot. He knows what we have, and he wants us to continue being great.”
Stamford athletic director Chris Passamano thinks Jenkins will thrive in his new surroundings.
“He’s a good dude,” Passamano said “He’s done great as a coach, connecting with the kids. They played hard for him. They respected him. I think he’ll do a great job.”
One thing Jenkins plans on doing at Bunnell is surround himself with a lot of experienced coaches to draw advice from.
“I don’t know everything,” Jenkins said. “I want people around me who will questions things and give me ideas.”
One new incoming coach, Marcus McElveen, will be Bunnell’s defensive coordinator.
McElveen, who is known as one of the best young assistant coaches in the state and spent the last two seasons at his alma mater in Norwalk, was also on hand to meet the team on Friday.
Jenkins and McElveen both work at Norwalk High and the new Bulldogs boss admitted he got a steal by signing him on to coach at Bunnell.
“Me and Marcus, a lot of people call us twins,” Jenkins said. “When we first met each other, we realized how similar we were. We talked about whoever broke first, we’d help each other. I know he’ll eventually get a head coaching job, but part of what sold me on taking this job was when he said he would come along. His role here, defensive coordinator or associate head coach, whatever you want to call him, he’s my right-hand man.”
Both are now part of the Bunnell football family and Jenkins made sure he players knew that.
Right at 2:47 p.m., to be exact.