Jets TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins Opens Up After Battles With Alcohol: ‘I Have a Direction and Purpose Now’

Featured on the New York Daily News.

It's been 11 months since Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins hit rock bottom. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut the talented but troubled player after a DUI arrest last fall. The NFL ultimately suspended him for the first two games of the 2017 regular season for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Seferian-Jenkins has undergone a remarkable transformation centered on sobriety. He changed his body and mind, discovered his true love and found peace and perspective. He chronicled his winding path to Daily News columnist Manish Mehta.

I'M EXCITED FOR LIFE

I'M 24 … but going on 54. I obviously wish I would have made better decisions and choices so I wouldn't have to go through a lot of the things I've gone through in my life. In a weird way, I've never felt as good as I do today. When I wake up, I'm excited to go play football and excited to get in the meetings. I'm excited to see my friends. I'm excited to see my teammates. I'm excited to see my coaches. I'm excited to practice. I'm excited for life.

I wish I didn't have to go through the things I did, but everyone makes decisions in their life and you have to man up to them. I feel really good about my life and the current state my life is in and my present day. I feel very honored and very fortunate to be where I'm at. And I really try to treasure that each day.

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I wouldn't call it a daily battle. But it's just something you always have to keep in the back of your mind. I don't think I'm ever going to go back to the way I was. I remember where I was at and I don't want to go back there. If you knew where I was at and where I'm at right now, you'd be like, "He's not doing that again." So, I know where I'm at right now and I knew where I used to be. I know where I want to go now, because I didn't know where I wanted to go before. I didn't have any direction. I didn't have any purpose. I have a direction and purpose now.

A TRUE FRIEND

MY AGENT BRIAN FETTNER has been there every single day for me when I needed him, when it was most important. I lived with him in Nevada in the offseason. It was really tough for me in the beginning to make that change. He woke up when I woke up. He ate the same food I ate. He jogged the same route I jogged. He went to the workout that I went to. He went to the other workout that I went to. He did everything with me.

He's super cool. He really helped me get my mind right. Obviously, I had to do stuff to get my mind right, but he was right there every single day. Some days I was like, "I don't want to do this s--t. F--k that. I'm going to sleep." And he said, "No. Get your ass up." Six a.m. … Two, three, sometimes four workouts a day.

You start changing your lifestyle and you don't want to drink. You want to get healthy. I didn't know what to do with all this free time. I'll do hot Pilates. I'll run. I'll do an extra workout. I'll go hiking. I'll go walking around the mall. You got a lot of time in the day. I'd get two or three workouts done by 3 p.m. So, what do I now? I might as well work out again.

I'm down 33 pounds. I'm pretty light. I just don't eat a lot of crap. I eat good food: oatmeal, blueberries, whole foods.

I'll be seven months sober in a few days. On my second day sober, I said I was going to try something different. So, I just went in there and got a nose ring.

FALLING IN LOVE

I ALWAYS LIKED FOOTBALL, but it wasn't like, "Oh, I'm so excited to get up and prepare." It was like, "F--k. I got to get up. I got to prepare. I got to go to practice. I got to do this." I was just going so I could go to the game.

Now, I'm excited to get the gameplan. I want to watch the tape, so I know how it's going to look. I'm just really more technical with it. I don't know. Ever since I got here with the Jets — not right when I got here because I was still working through stuff — but once I got through the season in January, I kept coming back to the facility and hanging around the coaches and everyone upstairs.

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I fell in love with it. It made me feel super good about Austin. They wanted to help Austin. My personal life got better. And I was like, "I really love it. I really love football."

I've always liked football and enjoyed playing, but I've never loved it. You actually enjoy the tedious work. Before, I didn't want to know the technique. I just wanted to go play.

I love the game. But I've never really had that intense passion for it. I have that now. And it feels good. It's like falling in love. It's someone that's always been there and one day you're like, "Whoa … Wow. I love you. You've been here all these years."

I'LL LET YOU DECIDE WHAT KIND OF PLAYER I'LL BE

TIGHT ENDS COACH JIMMIE JOHNSON has been amazing. He's been hard on me. He's my first critic. But he's the first person to tell me, "Good job." He's really helped me. I couldn't run block that well when I got here. And I'm still working on my pass protection. But he's really down-to-earth. He's a good coach. He talks to me like I'm a grown man. He doesn't treat me like a kid.

When I mess up, he's going to tell me that I messed up. When I do something good, it's not like, "Oh, great play!" It's, "I expect that from you." I'm supposed to do that all the time. I'm supposed to make those catches. I'm supposed to block like that. I work hard. I study the right things. He's just been a great guy. I'm very fortunate to have a coach like that. I'm really happy.

It's kind of crazy. I'm in my fourth year and I'm only 24. We got rookies that are 23. So, I'm going to let you guys decide what kind of player I can be. I'm going to play and see how far I can take it.

The other day, I got guarded on this fade and I did not like how I ran the route. We had a miscommunication. And the defense thought they were stopping me … and it bothered me.

They weren't stopping me. I was stopping myself because I didn't work on my technique on that. So, when I got a one-on-one matchup, I got that touchdown. And I was like, 'See! You can't f--king guard me when I'm know what I'm doing!'


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