TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins ready for NFL spotlight

Austin Seferian-Jenkins recalls with fondness soaking in the atmosphere during the John Mackey Award ceremony at Baltimore’s Marriot Waterfront on April 12.

Oct 26, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (88) breaks a tackle by California Golden Bears safety Michael Lowe (5) at Husky Stadium. Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 26, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (88) breaks a tackle by California Golden Bears safety Michael Lowe (5) at Husky Stadium. Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The recipient of the honor bestowed upon college football’s top tight end sat at a table with his mother Linda, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith, among others.

And when it came time to accept the award with the attention focused on him, the reality of the moment hammered home.

“That’s something not a lot of people really know,” Seferian-Jenkins said in a phone interview. “I wanted to win that award since I was probably in the sixth grade.

“To be able to be there, win that award, it was really cool. I get emotional talking about it because when you think about doing things your whole life, and then you have the opportunity to achieve it and you actually do it, there’s very few things that feel as good as that.”

Perhaps, but one of the elite tight end draft prospects of the 2014 class is in position to top that evening and fulfill another goal on May 8-10.

“I told myself I was going to make the NFL when I started playing football and that was when I was in the first grade,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “Ever since I put on pads, that was my vision and it hasn’t changed yet, and it won’t change. I just felt the day I put on those pads it was meant to be.”

The former Washington Huskies star proved he was on the right path by producing 146 catches for 1,838 yards and 21 touchdowns, all school records for a tight end, in three seasons before declaring for the draft following his junior season.

Other school records belonging to Seferian-Jenkins, who measured 6-foot-5, 262 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine, are single-season receptions (69 in 2012) and single-season receiving yards (850 in 2012).

His potential projects as a second-round draft pick, according to CBSSports.com and NFLDraftScout.com.

And Rob Rang, the senior draft analyst responsible for monitoring college prospects for those websites, is very familiar with Seferian-Jenkins being based out of Seattle.

“For a man of that size to have the body control that he does, it’s pretty extraordinary,” Rang said in a phone interview. “We live in an era where people will say he’s a physical mismatch, but Austin Seferian-Jenkins is truly a physical mismatch.”

Seferian-Jenkins, a native of Fox Island, Wash., has the NFL’s attention. He recently returned from pre-draft team visits on the East Coast, and made the rounds with informal and formal interviews at the Combine.

Among the teams known to talk to him during informal interviews in Indianapolis are the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles.

OK, what about the Kansas City Chiefs?

“I did not, but I talked to them,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “I was able to talk to them, but I didn’t do it informal.”

Asked to clarify what he meant, Seferian-Jenkins said his interview with the Chiefs at the Combine was in a formal setting.

Formal interviews are different from informal, which doesn’t cap the amount of interviews. However, teams are only allowed 60 total formal player interviews in a 15-minute span, meaning a franchise is often selective with whom they’ll sit down with considering more than 300 players are at the Combine.

A former basketball player, Seferian-Jenkins’ skill set would translate well to any offense. But potentially seeing him on teams incorporating a West Coast offense intrigues Rang.

“He slides by defenders and uses his frame to box them out without actually knocking defenders down to get to the ball,” Rang said. “With the West Coast offense and the timing and rhythm that it relies upon, I think Seferian-Jenkins is a classic fit in that scheme.”

Eric Galko, director of scouting for OptimumScouting.com, agreed.

“I think in a short passing game, a guy who can use his length to make plays would be a huge help for teams, particularly against a zone defense, which is what a West Coast offense was designed for,” Galko said in a phone interview. “I think Austin Seferian-Jenkins would do well attacking the middle of the field. It’s what a lot of the big receivers and tight ends do. It would open up the field vertically for quicker receivers and slot receivers. He would fit well there.”

Seferian-Jenkins said he looks forward to playing in the NFL regardless of offensive scheme.

However, he admits the thought of possibly landing on a team incorporating a system that takes advantage of his position would be exciting.

Feb 20, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Washington Huskies tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins speaks during a press conference during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 20, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Washington Huskies tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins speaks during a press conference during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

“It would be great for everyone if I was able to play in a West Coast offense because obviously it’s tight-end friendly with short, intermediate passes and I think I really excel at that,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “I think you have to block and I think I add a dimension to the game as well to stretch the field.”

Still, not everybody is 100 percent sold on Seferian-Jenkins.

Comcast SportsNet-Bay Area contributing analyst John Middlekauff said in a phone interview Seferian-Jenkins has the ability, even calling him a “big-time athlete.”

But Middlekauff, a former NFL scout with the Eagles, was lukewarm on Seferian-Jenkins at the next level when considering where a team may have to draft him.

“I think I question his toughness,” Middlekauff said. “Where you got to draft him, you have to draft him high like late first round, early second round. That’s too rich for me, but that might be what it takes to get him.”

When given an opportunity to address Middlekauff’s statement, Seferian-Jenkins paused to collect thoughts before responding.

“Everyone has their own opinion, entitled to their own opinion,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “I don’t agree with it.

“I don’t think I need anyone to tell how tough I am. I’m going to let my play speak for itself. I’ve never missed a football game in my career, never missed a practice in my career. The only game I’ve ever missed was because of suspension. I never missed anything for injury purposes. If I was hurt, I played through it.”

The one-game suspension came as a result of a DUI incident in March 2013, and that could cause a red flag when considering the emphasis placed on character in a modern NFL.

But Seferian-Jenkins, who pleaded guilty to the charge resulting in a sentence of 364 days in jail with 363 suspended, has repeatedly owned to his transgression and understands there will be concerns surrounding his reputation.

In addition to the jail sentence, Seferian-Jenkins was fined $695 and received five years of probation, the Tacoma News Tribune reports.

“People will raise the question because obviously it was a mistake that people take seriously and they should,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it was a mistake and it’s not indicative of my character.”

Rang believes the DUI incident was against the norm.

“Every indication I have is it was an isolated incident,” Rang said. “Like a lot of young people, he went out, he’s a social kid and a friendly kid, but I don’t see red flags as far as he’s a partier or he has any type of concerns that a team needs to be worried about. That’s having followed him throughout his high school and collegiate years.”

Another pre-draft concern surrounds foot surgery after medical testing in Indianapolis discovered a stress fracture. However, Seferian-Jenkins said numerous physicals during recent pre-draft team visits showed a full recovery.

“It’s already healed two weeks ahead of schedule, so I’m really happy about that,” he said. “I got X-rays, there’s no sign of any fracture anymore. I’m cleared.”

In the meantime, all that remains are the short weeks leading to May’s draft.

Like the John Mackey Award ceremony, the spotlight will be on Seferian-Jenkins during the three-day selection process. But this time around will be a lower profile event.

Seferian-Jenkins said he’s spending the draft weekend in his hometown with his mother, his younger sister Michaela, family friends and a few close friends. He prefers to keep the gathering small in anticipation for the moment he’s dreamed of since first donning football pads.

“To hear my name called, it will be real emotional,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “I’m really looking forward to just holding my mom, giving her a hug and enjoying that moment.

“I’m excited for it, but once that moment and day is over with, it’s time to grind. It’s time to get to work. It’s time to win a Super Bowl wherever I am. It’s time to get it on.”