Austin Seferian-Jenkins' last season at Washington was bookended by setbacks. The most recent was a stress fracture found in his foot during his medical checkup at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis that kept him from working out. More serious was an arrest for DUI in March 2013, for which he pleaded guilty and served a day in jail (the other 363 days of his sentence have been suspended).
In between, Seferian-Jenkins reasserted himself as one of the best tight ends in the country. Though his numbers dipped coming off a prolific sophomore season, Seferian-Jenkins took home the John Mackey Award as the best tight end in college football, and should be one of the first players at his position to hear his name called during the NFL Draft in May.
In the meantime, he's rehabbing and preparing for the next level. He spoke with SB Nation and explained the lessons he learned after his arrest, and how he evaluates himself as a player.
Seferian-Jenkins makes a play against BYU in December/Photo credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
What are you doing to prepare for the draft right now?
Really, I'm just rehabbing my foot, doing some cardio, but then all upper body, doing some lower-body lifts like leg press and whatnot. Watching film. That's about it really. And taking visits.
How is your recovery going? How soon do you think you'll be able to go 100 percent?
I feel pretty close to that. April 25 and 26 I'll be back for a brief check to get medically cleared, but I feel pretty good right now, pretty close to 100 percent, but I'm not there yet.
What sort of stuff are you doing to sell yourself to NFL teams right now? What's your interaction with teams?
Well, unfortunately I can't work out. I'm a competitor and I love to work out, and do that for the teams, but I can't because I'm rehabbing right now. So I go and tell them, when I'm visiting with teams and speaking with them, I explain to them what my personality is, who I am, what I'm about, what I'm going to bring to the football field each day. That's all I can do, and that's exactly what I'm showing them right now.
When you're doing visits, how do you like to portray yourself? What are you doing to separate yourself from a pretty talented tight end group?
I don't really think about that kind of stuff. I just really think about them getting to know me as who I am as a person. I don't want to try to sell myself or portray something that I'm not. You know, I'm me, I'm a fun, easy-going guy that likes to work hard, who's very driven and determined.
So, I don't try to be someone who I'm not. I am who I am, and I think it makes the job easier for the teams to get to know me and makes an easier job for myself.
Are you going to be able to do anything physical for teams before the draft?
The main thing is really just getting medically cleared, that's the No. 1 priority. Once I get medically clear, I'll be evaluated by my agent and we'll figure it out.
What are some of the teams that have been talking to you the most?
This process is kind of smoke and mirrors. You never really know who's really, really interested in you, because some people like to hold their cards real tight to their chest and others just don't. There's a lot of teams that I've talked to, but that's a question I really can't answer because you never really know until draft day.
Are there any teams you're particularly interested in, whether a childhood favorite or a system that you like?
Quite frankly, I just want to be playing at the highest level of football. That's the most important thing to me. I don't really care where I go because wherever I go they're going to get a very talented, driven guy that's going to get every inch of his potential out, max everything I have in my body out. Wherever I'm lucky enough to land is going to get a guy with maxed out, complete potential, year in, year out.
Are there any players that you model yourself after?
I'd say Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. A little bit of Kellen Winslow, senior not junior.
Jumps off the tape
Jumps off the tape
What traits do those guys have that you also share?
I think I'm a really good route runner. I need to work on my consistency of being a top route runner, but my route running ability, my ability to get open, my ability to make the contested catch, my blocking. I'm one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft.
I think I have the most overall, you know -- I'm an all-around tight end like Rob Gronkowski, who can block, catch, make plays; like Jimmy Graham, I can go out there and catch slants anywhere across the field; like Kellen Winslow Sr., he was a playmaker, when the ball is in your hands I find the end zone.
Evaluating yourself now, is there anything you feel that you still have to improve?
I think I need to improve in all areas. Improving on my route running ability, I need to improve my consistency of pad level at blocking and the technique. Yeah, I really need to improve on everything if I want to be where I want to be one day.
Going back to the combine, was it tough hearing at the last minute that you weren't going to be able to work out?
Yeah, because you work really hard for two to three months and you're ready to show everyone how fast your are, then all of a sudden they tell you that you can't. So yeah, it was a little frustrating, but I know the doctors were looking out for me, and I appreciate that. Looking back on it, I'm happy I didn't run because you never know what can happen and has happened with guys not taking care of themselves.
What was your immediate reaction to hearing the news?
My immediate reaction was 'you should let me run because I've practiced on it and I've been playing on it all year so it's not going to break today.'
What was the experience like talking to teams in Indianapolis?
It was good, it was an interesting time. You only get 15 minutes with a team before a blowhorn goes off, so that was interesting. It is what it is; it's a good experience. I was happy I was fortunate enough to be able to be invited to the combine. I was grateful for that. It was a great experience. I will always remember it.
Just guessing that one of the things brought up during interviews was your arrest in March 2013. Was that subject broached?
Of course it was. Yeah, I got arrested. Every team brought it up and asked me about, and I gave them the exact same answer.
It is what it is. It happened. I learned a lot from it, and it was one of the more positive impact things that I've had gone on in my life, even though it felt negative in the moment when it was happening.
How did that turn into a positive for you?
You just realize that you only got one chance, one opportunity, and I was fortunate enough to get a second opportunity with the University of Washington. You learn to try and make an impact. I try and tell kids, high school kids, I spoke with a couple high schools about the impact of drinking and driving, and how it affects people, how you can hurt yourself, kill others, family.
The great thing is that it happened before I got to the NFL. I took responsibility for it. I didn't run away from it, I took responsibility for it, and I moved on.
You mentioned being a mentor to younger kids. Has there been anyone who has been a mentor to you?
You know, really? No. I kind of just listen to my coaches, Steve Sarkisian and Doug Nussmeier, who's now the offensive coordinator at Michigan, and when they were with me I kind of just followed them, how they operated. So I kind of just follow suit under those guys.
Have you reached out anybody?
Not really. I've talked to Mark Bruener who played for the University of Washington, then [Houston] and the Pittsburgh Steelers. I've talked to him a number times. And I've talked to a lot of other guys that have gone through the program -- the University of Washington -- as tight ends.
What kind of stuff have they said to you?
Just kind of give me the helpful hints of the next level, some dos and don'ts. They encourage me, offering support. If I ever need anything or need someone to talk to about something, I'm going to hit them up. They always have an open line of communication for me and I really appreciate that from them.
Seferian-Jenkins speaks at the NFL Combine/Photo credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
On a personal level, do you feel ready to give up the college experience and move on?
Oh yeah, for sure. I'm done. I am done with college.
You know, it was great. It was a good experience at the University of Washington. Washington was an awesome, awesome place -- great academics, great coaches, great teammates, people, all of that -- but I just felt ready, just felt mature enough. Just more mature in my life.
I felt really ready to go after all the things that I went through all the years there. I felt mentally, physically, emotionally ready to move on to the next level and the next chapter of my life.
What do you think you'll miss most about Seattle and the school?
I'm just going to miss my teammates, and that would be about it. Just my teammates.
What are your thoughts on the future of the program under Chris Petersen?
They're going to do great. Coach Petersen is a phenomenal coach who really cares about the guys. I think the guys that are there -- I try to get to practice as much as I can, just to watch them. I love the way he coaches, I love the way the coaches coach the guys. There are a lot of talented players.
Shaq Thompson is going to tear up the Pac-12, so watch out for Shaq Thompson.
Anything to add before we head out? Shoutouts?
Shout out to the Huskies fans, shout out to my mom, shout out to my sister.