By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE – Austin Seferian-Jenkins is 6-feet-6, 276 pounds.
He never stood taller than he did after practice Tuesday.
True to his character — which has taken a beating publicly since his arrest in March for driving under the influence and his subsequent sentence of one day in jail served last month — the Huskies’ star tight end took full ownership for creating an “extremely, extremely terrible incident."
"I am just really lucky to be out here. I feel really privileged to be back with my team," the 2012 finalist for the Mackey Award given annually to the nation’s top tight end said following his second consecutive practice day, his first two on the field for UW since his arrest in Seattle March 9.
Speaking with his head high and his words noticeably strong, he called letting down his team, teammates and the university the hardest consequence of his huge mistake.
“It was completely my fault. I wish I can take it back but I can’t. All I can do is work for tomorrow and work for today and be the best person I can be today – and to continue to grow,” he said. “That’s the most important thing.”
Coach Steve Sarkisian suspended Seferian-Jenkins from spring practice and team activities from the time of his arrest until just before his return Monday to the practice field and the first-team offense.
Asked what was the most difficult consequence of his actions through the arrest, the subsequent legal process, the suspension, the one day he spent in jail, Seferian-Jenkins said: “Definitely missing my teammates, letting down my teammates and the University of Washington – it’s been a huge privilege to play here – letting them down has been the worst thing about this whole entire thing.”
As far as punishment from the football program, Seferian-Jenkins said he has “done a lot of things" that he and coach Steve Sarkisian are keeping internal to the team.
"As long as I get the trust of my team and my teammates back, that’s really all that matters," Seferian-Jenkins said.
"It’s still a process. Nothing’s healed just like that. Obviously, this happened in March and there are obviously a lot of people still hurt by it. It’s a very serious offense and I take it very seriously, because that’s not the type of person I am at all.”
The arrest was so out of character for how Sarkisian and the UW community know Seferian-Jenkins that it particularly shocked the program.
UW’s record holder for many career receiving records for a tight end after two seasons as a Husky acknowledged he is still in the process of repairing that jolted trust.
"There’s still a lot of work to be done," he said. “I am working hard. I am doing everything I can to be to be great teammate, a great brother, son and person and human being. I am trying to grow every day."
Asked if he expected to play in the Aug. 31 opener against Boise State — something Sarkisian said Monday he has decided on but will keep internal to the team — Seferian-Jenkins responded: “Uhhh … I expect to practice tomorrow, so, yeah."
"When you lose things like football, which is the game I love and is the most important thing in my life, it puts everything in perspective," he said. “You know, you take things for granted sometimes, and I think I might have done that. When you get back out here, being with your guys, it’s a really special thing. You don’t realize how special something is until you are gone.
"This has been a huge growth opportunity for me, and hopefully the team. … This has been a great opportunity to grow, as a person."
Sarkisian spoke a few minutes later. The former assistant with the Oakland Raiders said that unlike in the NFL coaching 18-, 19- and (in ASJ’s case) 20-year-old college kids is “a developmental process" involving life lessons that he tries to help instill.
That partly explains why the coach isn’t going to figuratively hang ASJ in town square for the entire world to see because of his arrest. And it is why Sarkisian is keeping the punishment and extra requirements he has put on Seferian-Jenkins -- and on Kasen Williams, following the junior wide receiver’s citation in May for driving after consuming alcohol -- internal.
“I remind them that they are 20 years old. I remind them that other people around the world and through time have made mistakes; they are not the only ones,” Sarkisian said. “It doesn’t have to define them. How they respond to this is more than anything what will define them.
“I just try to be a positive influence on their lives. I want to make sure they know they can trust me, because with trust comes honesty and with honesty comes a really good relationship where I can help develop these young men.
“That’s part of my job. This is a developmental process.”
DAWG BONES: Redshirt freshman QB Cyler Miles has made some impressive, at-times improvisational throws on a line to the sidelines during the first two practices. His play, plus the move of 2012 No. 2 QB Derrick Brown to H-back, have solidified his status as the primary backup to Keith Price – for now. … OLB Travis Feeney showed he is far back from offseason shoulder surgery. He sprinted back into the secondary and stepped in front of Williams on an in route for an interception of Price during the team portion of practice. Sarkisian marveled over the play – and over the potential Feeney brings on the defense’s flank. Feeney is staying on the right side and fellow OLB Shaq Thompson is on the left, as defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox no longer has his OLBs flopping from side to side depending on formation and where the wide side of the field is for a given play, as they did in 2012. Thompson said that change is allowing him to think less about changing assignments and play calls and to play faster, more instinctively. … Former backup TE Evan Hudson is getting time with the starting defensive line as a rush end. Sarkisian and Wilcox are intrigued by Hudson’s athleticism and his 6-5, 277-pound size as a potential asset to the defense’s pass rush. … The Huskies will be in shoulder pads for the first time Wednesday afternoon. They will be in full pads Friday and will have a scrimmage next Tuesday.