As Austin Seferian-Jenkins packed up his bedroom last week so he could move into a dormitory on the University of Washington campus Sunday, his mother reminded him that a new world awaits him.
Access to a fantastic education. Big-time college football. Life in a metropolitan city.
“I told him he is going to have to wash his own stuff and he got a blank look,” Linda Seferian joked.
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Even an elite tight end prospect can fall prey to the bewildering control panel of coin-operated washers and dryers. Seferian-Jenkins, who maintains he’s capable of operating a spin cycle, plans on relishing the complete college experience.
“I’m looking forward to college,” said Seferian-Jenkins, who graduated early from Gig Harbor High School so he could enroll in time for spring football practice, which begins Tuesday. “Football will be a big part of it, but the whole experience is something that I’m excited for.”
For the past few weeks, football took a back seat to life for Seferian-Jenkins. He relished the past few days with his mom and sister Michaela at their Fox Island home. Family and friends joined him for a sendoff party on Saturday.
Graduating early had been Seferian-Jenkins’ plan for months, but it wasn’t until last week that he was cleared by the NCAA. In addition to his classes and playing football and basketball at Gig Harbor, he jammed online courses into his schedule during the fall and winter so he could meet NCAA requirements for early enrollment.
He completed everything, including a senior project, two weeks ago, and transcripts were sent to Washington and the NCAA clearinghouse. The wait was agonizing. Imagining the clearinghouse not accepting his credentials was frightening.
“If they said I was ineligible, I would have been upset if I did not get to enroll early,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “I don’t know what I would have done for the next few months.”
The uncertainty of receiving the NCAA’s clearance, plus questions similar to those of any other college freshman – Who will be my roommate? What is the dorm like? What’s my class schedule? – added to his anxiety.
With little to occupy his time – done with high school, he has not attended classes for about two weeks and twice-daily visits to the Tides’ weight room and Bally’s Total Fitness in Tacoma were the only stops on his schedule – worst-case scenarios sometimes crept into his mind.
“Some of this has come down to the wire,” Linda Seferian said. “He started getting worried. But he knew what he needed to do, and this part, he had no control over it, so this is a little bit shaky.”
Ultimately, everything came together. He learned his roommate will be sophomore linebacker Thomas Tutogi, a transfer from Southwestern Junior College. And Seferian-Jenkins filled out the last of his paperwork Friday and had his physical on campus.
On Sunday, he got his first glance at where he’ll live for the next few months – the dorm room he’ll share with Tutogi.
Seferian-Jenkins already knows he’ll face one adjustment. For two years, the 6-foot-6, 250-pounder has dozed on a king-sized bed, “living the good life,” he said. At Washington, he’ll have to cram his frame into a twin bed.
Seferian-Jenkins is expected to join defensive end/linebacker Jarrett Finau of Juanita High School and walk-on quarterback Thomas Vincent of King’s as the only members of the 2011 high school recruiting class to enroll in time for spring practice.
Graduating high school and leaving home early is something few players do – Washington had four last season.
Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said he believes Seferian-Jenkins is mature enough, mentally and physically, to handle adjusting to college life on the fly. Student-athletes that arrive in the summer receive the benefit of time to acclimate themselves on campus when most of their classmates are on break.
“When a kid comes in in spring, it’s a little different formula,” Sarkisian said. “They don’t quite get that acclimation time, so I think there is a specific kid that can handle that.”
Consider the graduation gift Seferian-Jenkins has hinted at wanting – an alarm clock – and it’s evident that he’s focused on succeeding.
“I need an alarm clock because I’m going to be working really hard when I get to the UW,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “I’m going to be going to class, studying, practicing, working out.
“You can get really tired after a workout and I don’t want to sleep through any alarms.”
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