GREEN BAY - It wasn't the twists, the turns, the steep drops or the high heights that scared him. It was the backseat stories.
"I was very afraid of the Zippin Pippin," said Packers safety M.D. Jennings. "My brother used to always tell me all types of stories to scare me, he was older than me. You know, you might fall off, he would tell me it flipped and all typed of stuff."
Jennings is from Calhoun City, Mississippi, in the northern part of the state, only about 90 minutes from Memphis, Tennessee. That's where a theme park called Libertyland used to be. That park was the original home of the Zippin Pippin roller coaster. The current one in Green Bay brings back memories, even if it's a nicer version of what he grew up riding.
"It looks very familiar," said Jennings at Bay Beach, the current site of the coaster.
At the park, Jennings reflected on those times with his family, and also how they helped him through challenging parts of his football life. After a standout career at Arkansas State, Jennings was not picked in the NFL Draft. He said, like he normally does, he went to his parents for advice.
"My mom and dad told me to keep your head it, if it's in God's plans, it'll happen," said Jennings. "They told me that, I took their advice."
The advice worked. Multiple teams wanted Jennings to come in as an undrafted free agent, but once the Packers got in touch, the decision was easy.
Jennings played in all but one game his rookie season, mostly on special teams. In his sophomore campaign, he's battling to be the Packers starting safety in their nickel and dime packages.
"MD's one of those young guys who comes in and does everything you ask him," said Packers cornerback Tramon Williams. "He's gotten better. Hopefully he can continue to progress and contribute for us this year."
Fellow safety Morgan Burnett calls Jennings a "quiet, humble guy," but the second-year pro Jennings says that all changes on game day. He says he doesn't have music that gets him pumped up: the stadium takes care of that.
"I guess when you're coming out the tunnel, when you come across the last bricks at Lambeau… that's when it really comes on," said Jennings.
Jennings was able to conquer the Zippin Pippin on his most recent trip to the roller coaster.
"It wasn't that bad," said Jennings.
He doesn't plan to coast through any part of this season, and hopes his ride with the Green Bay Packers is just beginning.
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