"We're like two midgets in a circus," says Smith. But Jenkins raises his eyebrows at that. "I beg your par-...."
"Well," says Smith, "you got to understand that there are tall midgets and there are short midgets."
"Oh, terrific," Jenkins says. "Are we gonna do our little-people jokes now? Is that it?" Jenkins affects a perpetual sardonic look—the sophisticate as opposed to Smith's wide-eyed, boyish appearance. Both men are neatly bearded, and both are handsome and relatively unscarred. Jenkins is 29, Smith 25. "Okaaaaaay, then," Jenkins says. "You want to know why Reggie Smith will never make the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED?"
Smith nods brightly. "Because...."
"Puh-leeze." Jenkins holds up a hand to silence his teammate. "I'll tell it. Reggie Smith will never make the cover because in the cover photograph only the top of his little bitty head and maybe his eyeballs would show up—and the rest of it would be blank space until you got to the magazine's name up at the top."
"Uh-huh," Smith says. "And what does Alfred Jenkins need so he could catch more passes and maybe become a real football hero?"
"Tell me," says Jenkins. "What do I need?"
"Elevator cleats," says Smith.
The road to survival in the NFL is tough enough, Lord knows, for the run-of-the-mill monster suety player, but it has been particularly rocky for these two. Both began as free agents, hats in hands, after every NFL club had, quite naturally, looked right over the tops of their heads in the draft.
Jenkins was the first to get established. At Atlanta's Morris Brown College he caught nine touchdown passes in his senior season, 1972. The following year he was signed by Houston as a walk-on and later cut. That disaster was followed by a stint in the World Football League; he was named MVP of the Birmingham Americans, who won the WFL's first and only championship, just in time for the whole team to crash, owing him about $8,500 in salary. Life in Atlanta has been much better. After Sunday's win at Green Bay, Jenkins was the Falcons' No. 2 alltime receiver—235 passes for 4,203 yards and 27 touchdowns—and ranked second in the NFL for receptions in consecutive games. Jenkins has caught passes in the past 75 games, but, heck, his whole NFL career is only 78 games. Mel Gray of the St. Louis Cardinals is the leader with 105. But when a player is 155 pounds and circling, he really takes a beating.