SEATTLE – With one game remaining, Washington freshman Austin Seferian-Jenkins already has more receptions than all but six other UW tight ends have had in a season.
It’s a catch he didn’t make, though, that he says might be the biggest lesson of his first year of college football.
Seferian-Jenkins dropped a pass while wide open in the third quarter at Oregon State on Nov. 19, with UW trailing 17-14. Instead of a catch and 78-yard game-turning TD, the play was simply another disappointment on a day when UW suffered its most disheartening loss of the season, 38-21 against a Beavers team that finished 3-9.
Seferian-Jenkins, though, said the play hasn’t left a scar. Quite the opposite, in fact.
“I’m almost happy it happened to me because I’ve learned so much from it,” he said after a recent practice during UW’s preparation for its Dec. 29 Alamo Bowl game against Baylor in San Antonio.
“More than any catch I’ve ever had, that drop taught me so much about myself and the game of football and being a better player, and made me more mentally tough,” he said. “So I appreciate the circumstances it was in and what it brought me as a football player and I think it will make me a lot better football player than I ever thought I could be.”
The learning process began the next day when he was forced to see it again and again on film.
“I had to watch it and saw it, and I didn’t even try and catch it with my hands,” he said. “That was the sad thing – my hands didn’t even touch the ball. I tried to catch it like I’ve never caught the ball before. … Just run down and catch the ball. I was thinking too much, and when you start thinking, it messes you up and you make it a bigger deal than it really is, and that’s when you screw up.”
Those are realizations he says will pay off.
“Honestly, you drop some balls,” he said. “Now I move on from it and I’m just looking forward to the balls I’m going to catch against Baylor.”
And while he might have had a memorable drop, he had 36 receptions, the most for a Huskies tight end since Kevin Ware had 42 in 2002, a total that is second in UW history (Jerramy Stevens is first with 48 in 2000).
He also averaged 13.3 yards per catch, third on the team and evidence of athleticism rare for his position. His 479 yards receiving are the second-most of any true freshman in school history behind only the 1,035 of Reggie Williams in 2001. Along the way, he has earned several honors as an All-Freshman first team All-American, notably from FoxSportsNext.com and CBSSports.com. And he has made the tight-end position – virtually nonexistent in UW’s offense last year – a dangerous option again.
Seferian-Jenkins was also named to the All-Pac-12 honorable mention team, which he said made more of an impression than the freshmen honors.
“That made me hungry more than anything,” he said. “I want that (to be named All-Pac-12 in future years) way more.”
While he has big football goals, he says he might play basketball this winter.
Seferian-Jenkins has dropped hints several times he might want to walk on to the UW basketball team after the bowl game, and said last week, “I’m talking about it, so it’s pretty serious. But all my focus right now is on playing against Baylor.”
No football player has also played basketball since Nate Robinson following the 2002 season, and Seferian-Jenkins won’t hit the court until after he talks with coach Steve Sarkisian following the bowl game.
“If guys are good enough to do stuff like that, then I don’t have a problem with it,” Sarkisian said. “It’s just got to be right, and I’ve got to make sure he’s in the right frame of mind. We’ll deal with that after the bowl game.”