Why Austin Seferian-Jenkins is leaving now for the NFL

Austin Seferian-Jenkins after his team-leading eighth touchdown reception this season Friday night in the Fight Hunger Bowl, his final game as a Husky. The junior declared after the game that he is entering the NFL draft. (Nhat Meyer/Red Box Pictures).

Linda Seferian-Jenkins raised her son Austin and his younger sister Michaela by herself in Fox Island, Wash. And, as her son has said, Linda “worked two, three, four jobs at once” to do it.

The towering junior and 2013 winner of the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end found his mother in the lower stands of AT&T Park in San Francisco tonight, minutes after he had helped lead a dumping of ice-cold Gatorade over the head of victorious interim coach Marques Tuiasosopo. And when he did, Austin and his mom decided together right there that UW’s 31-16 victory over Brigham Young in the Fight Hunger Bowl was the final game he will play for the Huskies before Seferian-Jenkins enters this spring’s NFL draft as an underclassman.

"Very exciting, the idea that I can provide for my mother and play at the highest level in the world of football," Seferian-Jenkins said outside the Huskies’ locker room, the San Francisco Giants’ clubhouse.

His younger sister Michaela is in high school weighing options for college. She plays volleyball and wants to attend New York University. That isn’t cheap.

"I need to take care of my mom. That’s my biggest thing, taking care of my mom, making sure she is finacially OK. She has done so much for me that’s the least I can do is go play the game I love (for money)."

Here’s another factor that cemented the decision: Steve Sarkisian abruptly leaving at the beginning of this month to coach USC instead. That left Seferian-Jenkins with a coach, Chris Petersen, that he doesn’t know inside an offense he doesn’t know for what would have been a senior season of 2014.

This week, Seferian-Jenkins got back from the NFL’s evaluation committee of a half dozen general managers and other personnel executives the estimate that he could be a second-round pick this spring.

Those estimates are known to be conservative for underclassmen, in caution against some getting their hopes up too high for what may prove to be a bad decision.

"I’m ready to prove I am a first rounder," Seferian-Jenkins said in the locker room tonight.

His leaping catch of a pass from Keith Price in the back of the end zone between two BYU safeties tonight put Washington up 28-16 in the third quarter. It was his team-leading eighth TD reception this season and 21st of his career. That’s 11 more than by any other tight end in Husky history, and fourth-most by any UW receiver, one fewer than Reggie Williams (2001-03).

Seferian-Jenkins leaves as the UW record holder for receptions by a tight end in a season (69 in 2012) and career (146, after three tonight). His 1,838 yards receiving in three seasons are 705 more than any other UW tight end in a career, and the eighth-most by anyone in 124 years of Husky football.

Seferian-Jenkins went from 69 to 36 catches this season, but the offense changed around him. Bishop Sankey set school records with 1,870 yards and 327 attempts this season. Sankey’s 20 touchdowns on the ground were second most in UW history.

And when Price did throw out of the new, no-huddle offense, he often went outside to wide receivers on bubble screens and other short routes that were easy to call and block for. Seferian-Jenkins’ specialty was deep routes on play-action passes, and Washington did far less of that this season.

"I’ve done everything I can individually at the University of Washington," he said. "I was fortunate enough to win the Mackey Award. … I know that I am ready for the NFL.

"I could have zero catches or 95 catches, it didn’t matter. I felt I was ready. Last year I felt I was ready, and I have the opportunity to go now. This year the offense changed. I didn’t get the ball as much. But I definitely became a better tight end. I think I’m the best all-around tight end in the country. Other people agree with me on that. I don’t think there’s anything else to prove.

"I did what I had to do."

So what’s next? Seferian-Jenkins says he will go out of time, presumably to a warmer winter climate than his native Pacific Northwest, to train full time starting almost immediately.

"Become a beast, man. Become an absolute monster. A freak," he said, without smiling. "Just work hard, man. Do what I do."