Hobbled by a surprising foot injury in February and humbled by a wave of anonymous criticism, Austin Seferian-Jenkins is healthy again and happy to have the NFL draft kick off this week.
“I’ve been thinking about this moment, really, ever since I picked up a football. It’s a dream to play in the NFL,” Washington’s record-setting tight end said after a workout at UW on Monday afternoon. “This Thursday, Friday — whenever it happens, it’s going to be an amazing moment.”
Seferian-Jenkins is planning a fairly low-key draft party at his childhood home on Fox Island, with family friends and former teammates invited. Of course, he said, he would love to hear his name called in the first round during the prime-time ESPN broadcast Thursday.
“Anxiety, nervousness, excitement — all those come together when you’re talking about where the next chapter of your life is going to be,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “All your hard work comes down to this moment, and I’m just excited to start this new chapter of football.”
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It’s hardly been a fairy tale year so far for Seferian-Jenkins. At the NFL combine in February, it was discovered he had a hairline stress fracture in his left foot.
Unknown to him, Seferian-Jenkins had played with the injury for at least part of the 2013 season with the Huskies, and the discovery of the injury prevented him from participating in the combine.
Around the same time, an anonymous scout leveled some harsh criticism of Seferian-Jenkins, calling him “lazy” and “unreliable,” among other things. All this after Seferian-Jenkins had been arrested in March 2013 for driving under the influence, leading some NFL analysts to question his character.
Seferian-Jenkins pleaded guilty to the DUI charge last year and has apologized for the incident.
He also spoke before hundreds of students at Ballard High School in December about the dangers of drinking and driving.
The football questions this year about his work ethic and attitude have served as motivation.
“People are going to say what they want. Everyone has their opinion,” he said Monday. “I mean, I think it’s great. I love it. I actually love when people want to tell me something I’m not. They’ll be sorry whenever they have to play me.”
In three seasons at Washington, Seferian-Jenkins set nearly every school record at his position and last season became the first Husky to win the John Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end. He declared for the draft moments after his junior season had ended in December with the Huskies’ victory in the Fight Hunger Bowl.
The page is finally starting to turn for Seferian-Jenkins, just as the draft approaches. He lost about 20 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame, down to 262 at the February combine, and his surgically repaired foot is 100 percent healthy.
He said he has not run a timed 40-yard dash for any team, as had been reported recently, but he said he did run in the 4.6-second range during a workout with his trainer earlier this year, before having surgery on his foot.
He recently spent two and a half weeks on the East Coast, visiting with various NFL teams — eight in all.
Many other teams have been calling with last-minute questions, typically to verify contact information in case they want to call him back later this week, with the clock ticking down.
Most analysts project Seferian-Jenkins to be among the first 40 players drafted.
The NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah has him going to Green Bay with the 21st overall selection, which would make Seferian-Jenkins the third Husky in four years to go in the first round (joining Desmond Trufant from 2013, and Jake Locker from 2011).
“First, fourth, fifth, sixth — it doesn’t matter where I go. I’m just very honored that a team would take a chance on me,” he said. “It’s what you do once you get there. I’m ready to play football. Wherever I go, I’m going to make that team, that tight end room, that offense better. Let’s go to the playoffs and win Super Bowls.”
All in good time, perhaps.
And after a rough few months, the good times should begin again for Seferian-Jenkins as early as Thursday night.
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @a_jude.