The first time Austin Seferian-Jenkins saw Desmond Trufant play football, Trufant was already making big plays for the Wilson Rams against the Gig Harbor Tides.
Seferian-Jenkins was in eighth grade at the time; Trufant, in either his freshman or sophomore year.
“I still remember, the first time I saw Desmond, he picked the ball off and ran it all the way down, about 90 yards, for a touchdown against Gig Harbor,” the former Gig Harbor High and University of Washington tight end said.
Seferian-Jenkins may have known big things would be in store for Trufant in the future, but he may not have been able to predict what would be in store for both of them. Both players went on to have big-time high school careers, were teammates at the University of Washington, and are now both in the NFL. Seferian-Jenkins plays tight end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while Trufant plays cornerback for the Atlanta Falcons.
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On Saturday, Trufant held an inaugural skills and competition camp for high school players at Wilson High School. Seferian-Jenkins was one of the local pros in attendance.
“He invited me to come out and I told him absolutely, I’d love to and I can’t wait to be there,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “We have a good relationship; I’ve known him for a very long time. He’s a great example to the kids of how they should carry themselves, and I’m so excited to be out here and give back to the community.”
Trufant was pleased Seferian-Jenkins and other local pros were eager to help with the camp.
“(Seferian-Jenkins) is doing his thing, and I’m proud of him,” Trufant said. “He’s got big things to come. (Giving back) is really important. That’s what it’s all about. Somebody gave to us and we’ve got to give back to the youth coming up now. It’s a good thing.”
Giving back to the community has been important to Seferian-Jenkins since he’s entered the NFL.
“The community is what we are; the community is what made us,” he said. “I grew up in the Gig Harbor and Tacoma area and I played sports in the area and I think it’s really molded me. The players, when I was younger, whether it was in Seattle, Gig Harbor or Tacoma, those guys, I can definitely say molded me.”
Seferian-Jenkins showed some flashes of the skill that made him a highly-coveted draft choice in his first season in the NFL, but multiple injuries limited him to only being able to play in seven games.
“Obviously, I was hurt,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “But injuries are injuries — all you can do is try to get better. You can’t always plan to have injuries, that’s just what happens. It was a learning year. I can definitely do better and I will do better. I’m excited for the new chapter this year with our new quarterback and offensive coordinator. It’s going to be exciting and it’s going to be a big second year for me and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”
Seferian-Jenkins attributed his injuries to a lack of a legitimate rest period after his final college season ended.
“You go straight to the combine training, straight to OTAs, mini camp and then training camp, and then play another 20 games that people don’t realize,” he said. “Unfortunately, my body broke down and it couldn’t handle that. You learn how to be a professional and take care of your body a lot better and this year is going to be a great year.”
After a dismal 2-14 record last year, Seferian-Jenkins said the Buccaneers are in win-now mode.
“We didn’t have a good year last year, but there’s no rebuilding — that’s not what we’re thinking about,” he said. “We’re thinking about winning and winning now.”
The tight end also recently moved to Tampa Bay to get more involved with his adopted community.
“I just want to get settled out there and dive into the community,” he said. “I think the community needs to know me if we’re going to be out there playing football and the kids are going to watch us. I think you need to be involved in the community; I think that’s extremely important.”
While it’s tough to get back to Gig Harbor and see the Tides play during football season, Seferian-Jenkins said he makes an effort to keep up with what’s going on with his former program.
“I talk to (Gig Harbor coach Aaron) Chantler a lot ... we talk about different things,” he said. “I’m trying to get involved with them as much as I can. Any way I can get involved with them is important to me. Hopefully, as my career keeps going along, I can get more involved with the community in Gig Harbor and help that program grow.”