INDIANAPOLIS – Early Thursday, as the NFL Combine began, Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman offered the consensus opinion on tight ends here.
“There’s some depth at that position,’’ he said of a group that could yield two first-round picks for the first time since 2006. “I know there are also some guys that have some character issues at that position.’’
A few hours later, former Washington Huskies star Austin Seferian-Jenkins stood at a nearby podium.
“I don’t think I’m a character risk or a character issue at all,’’ he said.
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Even having to address that question, though, remains part of the penalty Seferian-Jenkins is paying for being arrested for DUI in Seattle in March 2013. He later pleaded guilty to the charge, spending one day in jail.
He followed with an underwhelming final season at UW, catching 36 passes for 450 yards. Each was the lowest in his three years with the Huskies, and far below the 69 receptions and 852 yards he had during a standout sophomore season in 2012.
Back then, it seemed a foregone conclusion Seferian-Jenkins would be a first-round pick.
Thursday, he addressed all the questions about him head-on during a 10-minute session at the podium and a few minutes with a small group of reporters.
The DUI, he said, was a one-time mistake that taught him a big lesson. And added that he will be happy to repeat that as many times as needed during interviews with NFL teams.
“Obviously they are going to do their due diligence in asking me about the situation with the DUI,’’ Seferian-Jenkins said. “But I think when you get to know me and you get to talk to me, I think it’s very clear that I’m not a character-issue guy. I made a mistake and I’ve moved past that.’’
The statistical drop, he said, was due in part to UW’s change in offense, going to a no-huddle, spread attack that called for him to block more.
It was also due, in part, because he gained weight to prepare for the shift in offense. He said he mistakenly believed he needed to be bigger to handle the greater blocking responsibilities. He eventually weighed more than 280 pounds. Seferian-Jenkins, who officially measured 6 feet 5½, weighed 262 pounds Thursday, having slimmed down during workouts with a training group in Phoenix.
“Little did I know it (blocking) had little to do with weight. It had to do with technique,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “And I learned. And I’m happy that it happened then instead of happening now that I’m potentially in the NFL. I’m back in the shape that I was when I was a sophomore and a freshman. I feel great and feel ready to go.’’
Seferian-Jenkins, who will work out with the rest of the tight ends Saturday, insisted the distraction from his DUI had nothing to do with his weight gain or drop in catches.
“Honestly, I could have done a better job,’’ he said of his final season at UW. “I was a little heavy. … But the DUI did not affect me (on the field).‘’
And while Seferian-Jenkins will have to answer tough questions, the expectation is that he will be one of the top two or three tight ends selected in the May 8-10 NFL draft. “I think he’s a first-round pick,’’ NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said earlier this week. “… He should be a better blocker than he is given his size, but he’s athletic enough to block. I think he’s tough enough to block.’’
Seferian-Jenkins doesn’t doubt it. He announced his decision to leave UW with one year of eligibility left minutes after Washington’s season-ending bowl win over Brigham Young. He simply felt the time was right to move on.
“Ever since I was growing up I knew I was going to play in the NFL,’’ said Seferian-Jenkins, who played at Gig Harbor High School. “I never thought anything else. There was never a moment like ‘I’m ready.’ I just knew that there would be a time. And after my last game, I knew I was ready.’’
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @bcondotta