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Originally published Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 10:01 PM

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Washington recruit Austin Seferian-Jenkins is part of talented senior class

Gig Harbor tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is one of the best players in a state.

Seattle Times staff reporter

GIG HARBOR — When Linda Seferian looks at her son, she can't help but think about her father.

There are times when Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Gig Harbor's 6-foot-7, 260-pound tight end, gets this look on his face and Linda is forced to do a double-take.

It's almost as if her larger-than-life father, Edward, is still alive, standing right in front of her.

"Austin carries that and it's kind of like my dad is still with us," she said. "For Austin, it's his grandfather is still with him."

For 35 years, Edward was the conductor of the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra, a man with the right mix of humor, personality and patience, qualities that came in handy for Seferian-Jenkins as he went through the recruiting process.

It's been years since Edward died of cancer, but his grandson still seeks his approval.

"Do you think grandpa Edward would be proud of me?" Seferian-Jenkins sometimes asks his mother.

With the way the senior — one of the top-rated tight ends in the country — has carried himself both on and off the field throughout the recruiting process, the answer is yes.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and very few people have it, so I'm blessed," said Seferian-Jenkins, who recently announced his commitment to play football at Washington, picking the Huskies over Texas.

At first glance, Seferian-Jenkins is a massive man. Sure, he's only a high-school senior, but he towers over his classmates and even a few fellow Division I prospects.

But look past the physical frame and there's a mellow side, a soft-spoken, down-to-earth teenager, who happens to be one of the top prospects in the country.

"When you talk about catching, blocking and doing everything naturally, there's no one better than Austin," said CBS College Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming.

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With Seferian-Jenkins and Skyline receiver Kasen Williams at the top, the 2011 recruiting class coming out of Washington is one of the better groups in recent years.

"It's as good as it's been in a long time," Lemming said. "There's a lot of big-time guys there."

The one question people ask about Seferian-Jenkins is his long-term future at tight end. There are those who project him to bulk up to a 300-pound left tackle by the time he wraps up his career with the Huskies.

However, Seferian-Jenkins has, and always will, consider himself a tight end.

"My thing of not playing offensive tackle is the health issue," he said. "I don't want to be that big. That could end up not being good for your health. Being 300-some pounds is not always healthy. You can say what you want about it, I don't want to do it."

He also plans to join the UW basketball team and the extra weight would limit his mobility.

"I plan on playing at the collegiate level," he said. "I have a roster spot, so I'm going to plan on playing there. It will keep me in great shape."

As he begins his final season with the Tides, Seferian-Jenkins is light on his feet. Gig Harbor coach Darren McKay said he has no problem splitting him out wide, given his ability to adjust to the ball on downfield routes.

"I haven't seen a person his size able to adjust to a ball like that," McKay said.

Look at McKay's cellphone and much of his call history is a back-and-forth with Seferian-Jenkins. McKay sees where his standout is now, but can't help but look back to when the tight end was a chubby cheeked eighth grader.

Even back then he was big. People noticed. They couldn't believe he wasn't even in high school. When Williams first began to get offers, Seferian-Jenkins asked McKay, "When is this going to happen for me?"

The recruiting circus started quickly enough, sending Seferian-Jenkins all across the country with Linda and his sister, Michaela.

"I think my daughter is looking forward to a vacation soon where it's not connected to any of the recruiting stuff," Linda said with a laugh. "I'm going to take her on a special vacation where there's not any of that."

Because of his connection to his family and his desire to be a part of the rebuilding effort at Washington, Seferian-Jenkins decided to stay home.

"I'm really blessed to have an amazing family," he said. "It's one-of-a-kind, because some people would die to have the family I do."

There are others who would give anything to have Seferian-Jenkins' talent. However, it is his personality that sets him apart. Thank grandpa for that.

Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277 or mkelley@seattletimes.com

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