He may be one of the most productive tight ends in football at the moment, but Jets TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins admits his career was taking a dive before joining the Green and White.
Seferian-Jenkins has caught 23 passes over the last four weeks of the season. It could be more if he didn't have to serve a two-game suspension that stems from his DUI arrest last September when he was with the Buccaneers.
But ASJ doesn't mind the numbers. He is happy that he is still playing the game he loves in the first place.
"I'm lucky to be here," he told ESPN's Rich Cimini. "The last time I played the Patriots, I pulled my hamstring and I thought that was the last time I was going to play football. ... I felt like I was done. I felt like I was done playing."
Seferian-Jenkins is referring to last Christmas Eve where he pulled his hamstring against the Patriots. He was already struggling with off-the-field issues as he went public with his drinking problem, and the injury didn't help matters.
The Jets, however, saw something in Seferian-Jenkins when the Bucs dropped him after the DUI arrest. They picked him up off waivers, and he has devoted his time to proving the Jets they didn't make a mistake in signing him.
"Life was real hard for me to grasp, to deal with," Seferian-Jenkins said. "I know a lot of people can relate to that, how their life sometimes is hard. You have difficult patches in life and sometimes you don't feel like you can get through those."
Along with support from the Jets, Seferian-Jenkins checked into rehab after the season and has seen drastic improvements in his day-to-day life. Of all places to go, he trained in the guilty pleasure capital of the country in Las Vegas, but he never saw the Strip. Instead, he was diligent with his workout regiment at Van Hook Sports Performance Center that helped improve his mind and body before this season.
"You can tell if a guy was out the night before on the Strip," fitness guru Brian Van Hook said. "That was never the case with him. He was on time and never missed a workout."
The hard offseason training has clearly paid off as head coach Todd Bowles is impressed by how Seferian-Jenkins returned to the team at the start of preseason.
"Because he's in a different spot mentally, you see a different player," Bowles said. "That goes on and off the field. He wants to be the best and he wants to help the organization, and show he can be the best."
Quarterback Josh McCown played with Seferian-Jenkins in Tampa prior to their reunion with the Jets. He said his tight end has done "a complete 180 from where he was."
The transformation didn't come easy once Seferian-Jenkins gave up drinking in January. But it has certainly paid off up to this point as the 25-year-old is in the right frame of mind with lots of football left ahead of him.
"Like I said [in the spring], I'm going to have the best year I've ever had," he said. "I knew that when I made the changes. I put in the work. I dedicated myself off the field. I'm just happy. As a person, I'm happy."
"Football has never really been a hard thing for me. It's off-the-field stuff -- like life -- that's kind of been [hard] for me. Once I got that handled -- the life part figured out -- football was easy."
Seferian-Jenkins is easily putting together his career-year has he already has 23 catches on 29 targers for 152 yards and two touchdowns. The most targets he's received in his career was 40 with the Bucs in 2015. His 23 catches is already a career-high.