For so long, Austin Seferian-Jenkins didn’t want to talk about the night he drove drunk and crashed his car into the bottom of a ditch.
However, Wednesday morning the University of Washington star football player stood in front of 600 or so students who crammed into an auditorium at Ballard High School and told a story about how he nearly lost everything.
“I felt like I really could be invincible, and I wasn’t,” he said. “I got caught up, and I started making poor decisions. Not just one time, but on the daily. This game that I loved almost got taken away from me.” During a 10-minute delivery, Seferian-Jenkins said he felt humbled, embarrassed and lucky to survive the one-car accident March 9.
He was arrested that night for drunken driving and a court-ordered blood test at Harborview Medical Center revealed his blood-alcohol level was 0.18 percent, more than twice the 0.8 percent state limit.
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Seferian-Jenkins, who suffered a concussion when his head cracked the windshield, said he wasn’t wearing a seat belt.
“I should have been shot out of my car, and I should have been dead right there or paralyzed,” he said.
Seferian-Jenkins was fined $695, received five years’ probation and spent a night at the Issaquah Municipal Jail after his guilty plea on the DUI charge.
“I had to go to jail, which was probably the most humbling thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my life,” he told the students.
“Playing on Saturdays, seeing 75,000 people yell your name, 88, ASJ and all of that stuff is great.
“But that all changed when I went to jail. All of sudden I became a number, and that’s it. I had an orange jumpsuit. I had a number, and that was it. There was no more me. No more football. None of that.”
The UW suspended Seferian-Jenkins after the arrest, and he rejoined the team Aug. 15.
This season, he helped guide Washington to an 8-4 record while establishing himself as the best tight end in Huskies’ history.
He’s the school record-holder for career receptions (143), receiving yards (1,801) and touchdown catches (20) for a tight end. He also holds the team’s single-season records for receptions and receiving yards by a tight end.
Seferian-Jenkins submitted paperwork to the NFL draft-evaluation committee, and he’s considering leaving school early.
“I really don’t know what the NFL has for me in my future because of my poor decisions,” he said.
Seferian-Jenkins said Wednesday’s event wasn’t a ploy to remake his image or court-imposed community service.
“I’m at a place now of just embracing the fact of what happened (and) being reactionary and acting upon it and make something positive of it,” he said.
According to Kimberly Mills, a spokeswoman for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, Seferian-Jenkins was to do 24 hours of community service. At the time of the plea, Mills said, Seferian-Jenkins said he planned to do more than what was required of him.
He and his attorney, Bill Kirk, assembled a panel to talk about the dangers of drunken driving.
The speakers included Kirk, a DUI lawyer, Seattle police Officer Eric Michl, who arrested Seferian-Jenkins, and Kelly Jones, who lost her son, Kellen, in an Easter morning drunken-driving accident three years ago that killed three Ballard High students.
“It’s one thing to listen to me, but it has a much greater connection when these kids hear it from somebody their age,” Jones said.
“For him to talk about the consequences that have already happened and the ones that he doesn’t even know about, that’s a strong message.” Michl, a DUI officer since 1984, believes Seferian-Jenkins has changed.
“He’s grown quite a bit,” Michl said. “He’s a smart guy. If anybody can advance from this, he can.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @percyallen.