We still can’t believe he’s gone. It’s been nearly a week since South Florida lost a super hero in Jason Jenkins, and since this podcast lost its champion.
We’ve read one beautiful tribute after the next, from Dave Hyde to Greg Cote to Armando Salguero – each proving incredibly moving and sparking great memories for those who knew him best – and hopefully, for those who have never met him, or even for those who have never heard his name, these stories will help them to understand the legacy Jason Jenkins has left on our community, and why he was beloved by so many.
Along with our Dolphins podcast network brother, Travis Wingfield, we did our best to express our feelings during the postgame show just hours after hearing the horrific news, and we can tell you it was beyond difficult. As we struggled to come to grips with the reality that the same man who had put us on the radio that day had passed away earlier that morning, we had to find some degree of composure and, while fighting back tears and overwhelming waves of emotion, share with all of you on live radio what we felt he meant to us personally, to the Miami Dolphins organization, and to the community at large.
We’d like to think we did an admirable job – did our best under the circumstances. We hope we made our boss proud. But we also realize now that in attempting to paint the whole picture and give the macro view, while also trying somehow to analyze a preseason football game, we had no time to truly reflect, gather our thoughts, and express what this uniquely special man meant to each of us personally, and to this podcast you have graciously supported over the years.
And so today we will attempt to do so, in this space. You now know what Jason Jenkins’ title was with the Miami Dolphins, how many years he has spent with the organization, and you are starting to understand the transformational work he did across South Florida and beyond. We hope that you did not miss what was most important to Jason, which is that he was a loving husband to Elizabeth, and a proud and caring father to three beautiful children.
Professionally, Jason was a changemaker and was most visible when he was out in the community, in a mosque or church or temple – a community center, a city park, a non-profit fundraiser, always representing the Miami Dolphins – always bringing people together.
Behind the scenes, Jason was a master of public relations. A man with a big picture view of what best represented the football team we all love. He was a confidant to the most powerful people in the organization, as well as those whose names you will never hear. He was a strategic planner, and as you will hear me say often, a visionary.
One of those visions was to offer content to Miami Dolphins fans in the way they wanted it most.
Clearly, that vision included The Fish Tank, but to understand how that came to fruition, here is an anecdote from Seth:
I’ll never forget the call.
January 17, 2020 - I was just waking up in a tent at Disney’s Fort Wilderness as part of a big campout weekend for my son’s Cub Scout Pack and the phone rings.
Now this may come as a shock to some of you, but I’m not much of an outdoorsman, so the sound of my cellphone was music to my ears – even if it was 7 in the morning on a Sunday.
And when I looked at my phone, I immediately had a sinking feeling in my stomach.
It was Jason Jenkins.
Now a little background here as to why I may have been a bit anxious.
I’d known Jason for quite some time. I was still in the Dolphins Media Relations Department when he started with the 49ers back in the early 2000s. We had crossed paths at a league PR meeting or two and had professional respect for each other in the way that PR folks do, and then when he joined the Dolphins in 2009, JT was of course still playing and so we became even more familiar with one another.
And as Jason’s profile grew within the organization, and especially when he became more and more of a presence throughout the South Florida community, my work as the Executive Director of JT’s Foundation made our relationship even more relevant.
But my anxiety was built around this podcast. Because early in our first season of 2018, we didn’t see eye to eye on a particular story told by one of our guests. I won’t get into who the guest was or what the story was about, because it’s not the point. The point was that after this 2018 incident, I was worried that I had burned a bridge with the team that I loved, the organization that I had built my entire professional career around. Truth be told, we never had another issue with the team, and Jason and I never spoke about the podcast again…until that phone call.
So I answer the call and immediately, without even saying hello, I lead with, “What I do now?”
Jason didn’t even answer my question, and simply replied with “I bet you’re saying ‘why the heck is this guy calling me at 7 in the morning on a Sunday in the offseason?’”
I said, “A little bit, yeah!”
And he replies, “I want to talk to you about the Fish Tank.”
Now I’m really losing it! I was like, “exactly! What I do?”
We both got a good laugh, and then he proceeded to ask me about the vision for the podcast, where we were with sponsorship, and our goals for the future…and then he said it. “I think the show should be part of the organization. The show’s good. It’s the kind of content fans want, and it’s the kind of content I want on our channels.”
I was stunned.
I actually said, “Wait…have you listened to it?”
He laughed and explained that he had heard every episode. Here I was scared of ruining a relationship I spent a lifetime building, and it turns out that Jason Jenkins was one of The Fish Tank’s biggest fans!
Five weeks later the team is announcing its new podcast network featuring Drive Time with Travis Wingfield, and The Fish Tank…with legendary Dolphins wide receiver OJ McDuffie and this washed-up old PR guy!
And yes, that moment was the beginning of our podcast taking flight in ways we couldn’t have imagined, but it was also the next step in a relationship with a guy that I developed a supreme admiration for, appreciation of, and honestly, someone I was just inspired by. Consistently.
Truly no one believed in The Fish Tank the way Jason did. He once said to me, “think of our podcast network as a streaming service like Disney+. I see Drive Time like a Marvel show and you guys are The Mandalorian!”
You know he had me at hello!
As we continue to say, Jason was a visionary in that sense and we are just honored that we were a part of that vision.
And that was just the beginning. He previewed each and every episode, we believe to enjoy getting a “sneak peek” as much as he listened to evaluate them. Heck, Seth would answer his phone calls and Jason would greet him by rapping our theme song!
Jason was just incredibly proud of our show, which in turn made us even more proud of it. We remember one night back in October, Elizabeth surprised him with a little early birthday getaway in Miami, and here he was, 7:30 at night on a Saturday in some fancy hotel, and he’s texting us photos of The Fish Tank on the television in his hotel room. His message said, “I can’t get away from you guys…and I love it!”
And there’s something else here that is important. Jason would always challenge us to be our best, but he insisted that we never lose touch with our own brand. He got US. And we think that was one of his many super powers. He seemed to get everyone. He would see you for who you are; he would empower you to embrace that, and maximize it, and understand the importance of it. This was a major part of what he did with football unites, and we think it is what made him a fantastic leader. We KNOW for a fact it’s what has allowed us to be our best on this podcast.
And the most amazing part of all of this is that EVERY person who had any dealings with Jason has their own version of this story. He made us ALL feel this way! It is a remarkable gift to make everyone you come into contact with feel like they’re the star quarterback – and to do so authentically.
Now don’t get it twisted…if he felt you needed to hear something, you would hear it! He didn’t mince words…but then he would lift you right back up and challenge you to be the best version of yourself.
Look…as we said, we have known Jason a very long time. Seth and Jason would talk about JT and the Foundation work for years – long before ever dreaming of doing a podcast. He made sure that the Foundation was always supported and again, it wasn’t just pushing checks around the table. It was authentic, intentional support. If Seth invited him to shop during a Cool Gear for the School Year event – he was there. If a judge was needed for a poetry slam. He was there! “Hey Jason, can I pick your brain on something?” The phone would ring.
But our relationship reached new heights through the Fish Tank. We all talked far more than we ever had. Seth and Jason emailed and texted constantly (perhaps far more than he liked or had time for!). We strategized, ideated, created. Jason pushed us, and then celebrated each new step that he helped us reach. And the best part of it all was that he was every bit as excited for us as we were for ourselves…if not more.
One of the last texts that we received from Jason came midway through the second quarter of the last Miami Dolphins game he would ever attend – the preseason game vs. the Raiders. He sent us a photo of the jumbo-tron, because right next to the replay of the game action was a giant logo of The Fish Tank showing everyone at the game where they could download the show. Understand that this wasn’t a boss telling his employees, “look what I’ve done for you!” This was Jason Jenkins saying, “hey guys, we made it!”
Well, we don’t know what we’ve made or didn’t make but what we do know is that we’ve been blessed to have this experience. We were blessed to have worked with someone who believed in us as much if not more than we believed in ourselves. Someone who modeled strong leadership. Modeled excellence. Modeled consistency. A loving husband and amazing father. A kind soul and seeker of justice and equality. A strategic planner and brilliant PR mind. Jason Jenkins was the kind of person who challenges you to be your absolute best simply by being himself. And we are better for it.
This past Tuesday, we published a new episode of The Fish Tank, just as we do every Tuesday. And just like we do every Tuesday, we tweeted about the show…but for the first time since 2020, there was no Jason Jenkins retweet. And that simple act was another reminder that things will never be the same. Not for our podcast. Not for the Miami Dolphins…Not for South Florida. But the work that Jason has done, the lives he has transformed, the impact he has made will never be forgotten.
- OJ & Seth