INDIANAPOLIS — Looking down from the podium, Austin Seferian-Jenkins was finally here. He was surrounded by the NFL logo at the NFL combine. The place he had always worked to be at since he was a kid in Gig Harbor.
With his first step toward a professional football life as a tight end came the questions he will have to endure until his play and personal actions make them go away. Repeatedly Thursday, Seferian-Jenkins was asked about his DUI arrest stemming from a crash last March in Seattle’s University District.
He had moved on back at home. This was now a question for those who had not met him, which left Seferian-Jenkins deftly explaining that the incident was a blip, not a full-character representation.
“I think it’s pretty well documented that I had a DUI,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “People might say I have character issues; it was one incident. You can
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look through my history. I’m not perfect. Last time I checked, no one is perfect. I think people in Seattle and Tacoma know who I am, and I am not a character risk or character issue at all.”
Seferian-Jenkins shifted from a weighty subject to his weight. The scale at the combine said he weighed 262 pounds. Seferian-Jenkins said that was about 20 pounds less than he weighed during his junior season at Washington last year.
The weight, Seferian-Jenkins conceded, influenced his play. His receptions were almost cut in half. In 2012, he caught 69 passes. Last season, just 36. Despite the decline, he won the John Mackey Award – which goes to the best tight end in the country – this past season after being one of three finalists in 2012.
“I could have done a better job (overall),” Seferian-Jenkins said. “And, I was a little heavy, I can admit that. I shouldn’t have been that heavy, but now I am at the right weight.”
Seferian-Jenkins said Washington’s offense changed a bit and he was asked to block more. So, he put on more weight in hopes it would help him be a more effective blocker. He later realized better technique would have been sufficient.
He’s been working out at EXOS, a training facility in Phoenix, Ariz., formerly known as the Athletes Performance Institute. He’s back at the weight he was during his freshman and sophomore seasons, when he began his path to stomping the Huskies’ tight-end records.
Seferian-Jenkins was also asked about some past tweets from “draft experts” who said scouts wondered about his practice habits.
“I don’t think you win the John Mackey Award having bad work ethic,” Seferian-Jenkins said.
Seferian-Jenkins also said he was not coming back to Washington after his junior season whether Steve Sarkisian stayed or not.
“He knew,” Seferian-Jenkins said.
At the combine, Seferian-Jenkins said he hopes to run around a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash. Rob Rang, a draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com, said scouts want to see multiple skills from Seferian-Jenkins at the combine when he does his on-field work Saturday.
“I do believe (the 40-yard dash) an important test for him,” Rang said. “He’s a smooth athlete, not an explosive athlete on tape, so if he can run anything 4.65 or lower I think it can help boost his stock.
“The interview is definitely the most important thing for virtually every player here. I would think that the bench press is also important for him. For a guy who was asked to block as often as he was, he wasn’t known as a physical blocker so he needs to show some explosive strength.”
By Thursday afternoon, Seferian-Jenkins had gone through a handful of informal conversations with teams. More formal interviews were expected in the evening, when teams were able to spend 15 minutes with him.
He’s less than three months away from being drafted, and then that dreamy first NFL snap.