NY Jets Tight End Austin Seferian-Jenkins Talks Recovery, Credits Personal and Professional Success to Treatment

Austin Seferian-Jenkins has had an impressive athletic career: ranked second nationally as a tight end his senior year of high school, a University of Washington star who broke school records for receptions, receiving, yards, and touchdowns by his sophomore year, and a second-round draft pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2014 NFL draft. Although he made a name for himself for his outstanding athleticism and is one of the most coveted (and youngest) free agents in the NFL, he also gained attention for his off-the-field behavior and struggles with alcohol – struggles that threatened to end his career.

In 2013, when Jenkins was playing for the University of Washington, he was cited for his first DUI, to which he pled guilty and was suspended by the team for their 2013 season opener. His troubles didn’t end there. In 2016, he was again arrested for DUI and was subsequently released by the Buccaneers the same day. With no support system, he turned to drinking.

As Jenkins tells it in a recent interview on his struggle with alcohol, he hit a low point that Christmas Eve when he found himself walking home alone after taking upwards of 15 shots of hard alcohol. Followed by a season-ending hamstring injury his first season with the New York Jets, he saw little hope in sight and a football career that may have been over – until he checked himself into a detoxification program.

As he notes, the decision to enter detox came when he knew he needed to get help. Initially reluctant to speak and share his stories in the program, Jenkins soon realized he was in a place where he wouldn’t be judged, and which had the resources he needed to not only actively participate and open up, but also get back on track and manage his life.

After six days of detox, Jenkins began attending rehab on an outpatient treatment basis – four days a week, for three and a half hours each day. The tools he gained in treatment helped him endure a strict nutrition and training program to prepare him for his return to the field, shed close to 30 pounds, and regain his speed and agility.

Now, Jenkins has more than 400 days of sobriety – something he credits to detox, rehab, and resources he never knew could help turn around his life so drastically, and which he only regrets not doing sooner. Having been the 13th ranked tight end in the 2017-2018 season despite missing three games (two due to the NFL’s substance-abuse policy), he now looks forward to what he can offer in free agency. Last season, he says, was in many ways his rookie year – one where he focused on himself, his sobriety, and football fully for the first time, and during which he included self-reflection as part of his daily routine.

While he still reflects on his past and the poor choices he made, he uses it constructively to learn from his mistakes and set new goals moving forward. He reminds himself to go day-by-day by writing the numbers “1-365” daily as a point of reference.

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