When the Washington Huskies begin spring practice Tuesday, one of the most intriguing story lines will be the development of tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Gig Harbor High.
Seferian-Jenkins (pictured in an Ellen Banner photo from last fall) graduated early from Gig Harbor so he could enroll in time for spring practice. He was due to enroll for classes on Friday, check into his room Sunday (today), where his roommate JC transfer linebacker Thomas Tutogi, and take his first classes on Monday.
“I’m very excited to get to UW and see what it will be like to be a student-athlete,” he said last week (he’s one of two high school players who will enroll early, the other being Jarett Finau of Juanita).
In fact, Seferian-Jenkin takes the student part seriously, mentioning it several times during an interview — his long range goal is to get a Master’s degree, maybe in business or political science. He says he wants to be a politician or an investment banker someday.
But for now, he knows most UW fans view him as the answer to the team’s woes at tight end.
The position was almost non-existent for UW much of last year, a domino effect that began when Kavario Middleton was kicked off the team last summer and continued when Chris Izbicki battled injuries and eventually left the team prior to the Holiday Bowl.
Seferian-Jenkins will battle with redshirt freshman Michael Hartvigson and sophomore Marlion Barnett, among scholarship players, at tight end this spring. Given his high school hype, however, many expect him to make an immediate impact, though Seferian-Jenkins says he’s not paying attention to any of that.
“Nothing is guaranteed,” he said. “I’ve got to come in and work hard. It’s wide open. I think the coaches have all said that. But no matter who you are, the position can always be taken if you come to practice hard every single day. My job is to come in and compete.”
As for trying to live up to the expectations of others — quite high since he was considered by many the top tight end available for the Class of 2011 and turned down offers from the likes of Texas and UCLA to sign with UW — he says: “I don’t feel any pressure at all. My job is just to be a good tight end, be the best tight end I can be. I really don’t care what other people expect out of me. If I achieve what I expect out of myself then I’m happy.”
And oh yes, he’s definitely a tight end. There’s been talk that he may eventually outgrow the position, but Seferian-Jenkins doens’t buy it, saying “it doesn’t really matter if you are 290 pounds if you can run 4.5, 4.6 (in the 40).”
He says flatly that “I’m a tight end. My goal is to be a tight end.”
He says he weighs 256 pounds and that he’s been working out every day at a local gym, having also played basketball at Gig Harbor this season. He signed with UW in February, having committed last August amid much fanfare. While some other schools continued to check his interest, he said he never wavered.
And now on Tuesday, his UW career starts in earnest.
“I’m not going to get psyched out about it,” he said. “It’s just football.”