A look at Jennings’ storied Pam Pack career

Published 9:04 pm Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Whether it was on the gridiron, the wrestling mat, the diamond or in the classroom, Neill Jennings excelled at everything he did both as a student and an athlete. He spent countless hours of his high school career practicing, competing in games and matches and representing Washington the best he could — all before he’d get home to do the bulk of his schoolwork.

The result was one of the most storied careers of any one athlete in Pam Pack history. He left an impact on each athletic program — and the department as a whole — during his four-year career. Among the most memorable heights reached during his years donning various Pam Pack jerseys was his junior season when the football team reached the state championship.

“Going to the state championship, it was a tough loss but it was a great ride and a lot of fun,” Jennings reflected. “We played some really good football. … I came in and we were a 10-win team, so we were pretty good, but we had to get over the hump. … We got better and better each week, each year.”

Football coach Sport Sawyer added, “Neill works hard every day. He has a strong mentality as far as wanting to be successful in everything he did. Football wise, he’d go out there every day and do the drills real hard. … Him and the other seniors were very good at leading this team for the last few years. The record speaks for itself.”

As a wrestler, Jennings played an important role in what has evolved into one of the east’s most dominant programs. The Pam Pack repeated as 2-A Eastern Plains Conference champions this past season. As an individual, the two-time team captain wrapped up his career by placing fifth in the state in his weight class.

“He keeps guys in line with what they’re supposed to do in the classroom and at practices,” wrestling coach Chris Penhollow said. “What it really does is, when you have your young kids coming in as freshmen, they see how these guys act and understand pretty quickly this is what’s expected.”

Jennings spent the last months of his athletic career at Washington leading the Pam Pack to one of its most successful seasons to date. After a five-win campaign the year before, Washington finished the regular season 14-10. Not only did it earn the team a spot in the playoffs for the first time since he had been there, but the Pam Pack would also get to host its first-round match up.

“He’s always been there as a leader,” baseball coach Kevin Leggett said. “He helps the younger guys because we’ve been young for the last few years. Without him, there’s no telling where we’d be. … I think he’s rubbed off greatly. Most of my guys are balancing two or three sports like he did. The ethic in the classroom has carried over to them.”

Unfortunately, this seems to be the end of the road for Jennings’ athletic career. Ongoing back problems have forced him away from the sports he loves. However, Jennings has excelled just as much, if not more, in the classroom as a student. He will be attending East Carolina University in the fall, hoping to continue building himself as a model student. The legacy he leaves at Washington is that of an outstanding model for what a student-athlete should be.



Washington’s football program had been a contender before Jennings arrived on the scene. Led by senior quarterback and current ECU receiver Jimmy Williams, the Pam Pack won 10 games when Jennings was a freshman in 2012.

Jennings’ elite abilities on the offensive line helped take Washington’s ground-based offense to the next level, making it a threat to every other 2-A team in the state. The Pam Pack reached the regional championship during his sophomore season, but was handled, 42-15, by T.W. Andrews.

It was disappointing, but it helped fuel the fire and push Jennings and the Pam Pack to a state-title match in his junior season.

“We went to High Point and really got it taken to us by Andrews,” Jennings said. “Then we came right back and everybody had a sour taste in their mouthes. We came up to the (regional) final and won that.”

Sawyer added, “He’s accomplished a whole lot as a player. His back isn’t allowing him to go further. For him, all the games he’s won and all his accomplishments, he can look back at his high school days and be very proud.”


Back injuries have plagued Jennings throughout much of his junior and senior year at Washington, but he worked through it to become one of the wrestling team’s most consistent athletes. The result was the Pam Pack growing into a group that can hang with the best the eastern side of the state has to offer.

Jennings proved that in his junior season by helping lead Washington to a conference championship and, as an individual, qualifying for the state championship. He and his teammates proved this past year that, despite having targets on their backs, they have what it takes to defend their title, which is exactly what they did.

His accomplishments as an individual were great, too. His goal going into his senior year, as a wrestler, was to make the podium at the state championship. He did that by placing fifth.

“He was right there with the best in the state. He lost a match by three points to a kid that made the finals,” Penhollow said. “He lost by one point to the guy that took third. … He’s the first one to make the podium in my career.”


Washington’s baseball team had struggled before and throughout most of Jennings’ tenure. The Pam Pack had won just 11 games in the three seasons prior to his senior campaign.

As one of two seniors on this year’s squad, Jennings helped lead the team to its first winning record since well before he came on board. He burst onto the scene with a .405 batting average in his sophomore season and followed it up by batting .380 as a junior.

The Pam Pack recently wrapped up its season with a 15-10 record and an even 5-5 slate in the EPC. Jennings spent most of the season as the team’s designated hitter and was somewhat held back by his injury.

However, the leadership he brought to the team was immeasurable.

“He works hard. Three sports, AP classes, everything else he does in the summer, it’s hard to do,” Leggett said. “You have to have a great work ethic and he’s been able to excel in all those things. You can do nothing but praise him.”