Packers: Jenkins prepares for the Super Bowl even as his father is missing

2011-02-03T03:30:00Z 2011-02-09T06:27:05Z Packers: Jenkins prepares for the Super Bowl even as his father is missingJIM POLZIN | jpolzin@madison.com | 608-252-6473 madison.com

DALLAS — Darome Jenkins will have a Super Bowl XLV ticket waiting for him Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.

Cullen Jenkins just hopes his father shows up to use it.

The Green Bay Packers veteran defensive end is doing his best to prepare for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the biggest game of his career, but it isn't easy.

Distractions are unavoidable during Super Bowl week. However, nothing matches the one Cullen Jenkins is facing.

He hasn't heard from his father since around Christmas.

Newsday first reported the news that Darome is missing after speaking to Cullen at Tuesday's Media Day. Cullen politely answered more questions about it Wednesday morning at the team hotel in Irving, though he was understandably uncomfortable to elaborate at times.

"He went out to Hawaii," he said, "and we haven't heard from him since he went out there. It's been a little over a month."

Cullen said it's not normal for his father, who maintains a residence in Hawaii but returns to the mainland occasionally, to go this long without checking in with his family.

"Obviously, you're concerned for his safety, concerned about how he is, his state, everything," Cullen said. "We've just got to wait and let it play itself out. There's nothing much I can do from right here."

Proud papa

Darome gained custody of his two sons in 1981 — Cullen was 10 months old — and raised them as a single parent in a bad neighborhood in Ypsilanti, Mich.

Both of them ended up becoming millionaire NFL players — Cullen's older brother, Kris, is a defensive tackle for the New York Jets — but it was a far cry from where they started out. Money was so tight, Darome told the New York Times for a story that ran in 2008, that he and his two sons lived off $30 one week.

A drama teacher at a middle school in nearby Ann Arbor, Darome believed in tough love.

"I couldn't stand it when he'd wup me with those belts," Kris told TIME Magazine for a story in 2004. "Some people called it abusive. But being where I am now, I really appreciate his discipline. He taught me that the world isn't a nice place, that there would be consequences for my actions."

Darome had his reasons.

"I'd rather put a belt to him as a child," he told the magazine, "than watch the police put a belt to him later on."

Cullen was tight-lipped Wednesday when asked how it ended up being just Darome, Kris and him.

"Whatever happened with him and my mom, I'm not too sure about, nor do I really care," Cullen said. "I don't try to focus on that stuff too much. So it was us growing up. My dad, he worked a lot to take care of us. And he did a good job of it."

Did he ever, though his sons' NFL success was only part of the reason why Darome considered his parenting a success.

"I'm proud of them not because they're football players, I'm proud of them as men," he told the Ann Arbor News in 2003. "I'm happy for them as football players. I'm glad that they were able to achieve success at a sport they enjoy doing. But I'm just proud of the fact that they're men that take care of their children. That's what makes me proud of them."

Staying focused

And now that proud father is missing.

It's the culmination to an adversity-filled season for Cullen, who is a free agent after the season and could be playing in his final game Sunday when the Packers (13-6) meet the Steelers (14-4) in Arlington, Texas.

Cullen, an undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan who is in his seventh season in Green Bay, broke his left hand on the first defensive series of the season at Philadelphia on Sept. 12. He later missed five games — including the final four of the regular season — with a calf injury.

He returned for the playoffs and has played well despite wondering about his father's whereabouts.

"I think Cullen is as level-headed — luckily, this isn't a 22-year-old, 23-year-old trying to do this," Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said of Jenkins, the team's best pass-rusher on the defensive line. "He's an older guy, he's been around a little bit. I think he'll have no problem handing it."

Cullen will have several family members in town for Sunday's game. He's hoping the list grows by one.

He hasn't decided whether to leave his father's ticket at the will-call window at Cowboys Stadium or with a family member. He said he hasn't even thought about whether he'll check prior to the game to see if his father made it safe and sound.

"You know, it's a tough situation, but you've just got to try not to think about it too much," Cullen said. "Just focus on everything else and try to stay busy with everything else."

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