FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Austin Seferian-Jenkins disliked the person he had become.
He was out of shape, had been in trouble with the law and was being labeled a second-round bust. The troubled tight end knew he needed to make changes — and quickly.
“It really didn’t have anything to do with football,” Seferian-Jenkins said, reflecting on the last several months, which included treatment for alcohol abuse. “It just had to do with, as a person, there comes a certain time in your life when your life could go one direction or the other, and I felt it going in a direction I didn’t want it to go.
“So I figured out what I needed to do.”
He has turned his life around off the field and is thankful for the chance he has on the field with the New York Jets.
“I made a plan, and I stuck to it, and I’ve continued to stick to that plan,” the 24-year-old Seferian-Jenkins said. “My personal life is great. I’m happy and I’m doing everything I should off the field, so the football stuff is easy for me. Is it easy every single day to come out here and work hard and do everything? Not necessarily. People get tired and all that. But compared to other stuff I’ve been through and things I’ve worked through, this is easy.”
Seferian-Jenkins quit drinking in January and received outpatient rehab treatment. Since then, his new svelte physique is the most visible change. The 6-foot-5 Seferian-Jenkins is down 33 pounds from last season, when he was listed at 262, after improving his diet and tinkering with his workout routine. He mixed in aerobics and yoga to improve his flexibility.
“I mean, man, it’s a lot easier running around, lighter,” he said. “More than just losing the weight, it’s a mindset of how I’m going to attack the day, how I’m going to attack the practice.”
Seferian-Jenkins looked solid during the offseason workouts and minicamp, and has carried that over to the early part of training camp.
“He made a dedication to himself, so that’s a credit to him,” coach Todd Bowles said. “He’s come in lighter, he’s quicker, he’s leaner and he’s moving a lot better.”
Seferian-Jenkins feels good and he likes who he is now, something he couldn’t say just a few months ago.
The 38th overall pick in 2014 by Tampa Bay was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in Florida last September while he was a member of the Buccaneers. Seferian-Jenkins was cut by the Buccaneers a few days later and claimed off waivers by the Jets.
He was charged with DUI and violation of an ignition interlock device restriction from an arrest in 2013 while playing at the University of Washington. Seferian-Jenkins pleaded no contest in February to a reduced charge of reckless driving after originally pleading not guilty to the DUI charge.
The NFL also suspended him for the first two games of this season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He’s allowed to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games, per NFL rules, and is approaching this opportunity like a fresh start.
“I kind of forget about the past, but you remember the lessons from the past,” he said. “I get my ankles taped where the rookies get theirs taped, I’m in the ice bath with the rookies getting an ice bath. I’m treating this like my rookie year. It’s a new me and I’ve rededicated myself and pushing myself as hard as I can.”
He had 21 receptions in each of his first two NFL seasons and hasn’t lived up to his draft status. Seferian-Jenkins had 13 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown in nine games with the Buccaneers and Jets last season.
Aside from the off-field issues, Seferian-Jenkins also dealt with ankle and hamstring ailments after joining New York.
“I wasn’t doing the right things,” he said. “I wasn’t preparing like a pro should prepare. I am now, so I feel confident when I step out on the field I know everything I’ve got to do.”
Seferian-Jenkins started two games last season for the Jets and will likely be in the mix again after his suspension is over. Rookie Jordan Leggett, a fifth-rounder out of Clemson, has looked promising early, and the Jets also have Chris Gragg, Eric Tomlinson, Jason Vander Laan and Brian Parker at the position.
It also appears new offensive coordinator John Morton will incorporate the tight end into his system, which has some West Coast-style tendencies. That means more opportunities for catches after former coordinator Chan Gailey used tight ends mostly as blockers the last two seasons.
Seferian-Jenkins is just thankful to even be out on the field these days. He praised the Jets organization for standing by him during the most difficult time of his life, and he wants to repay his teammates.
“They embraced me, welcomed me as a new person, accepted me regardless of everything and I just truly appreciate that,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “The front office, the coaches, that’s important, but it’s really my teammates. They deserve everything I can give them.”
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)