Desmond Trufant on track to follow his brothers into the NFL
Austin Seferian-Jenkins stands 6-foot-6 and, as of Washington’s first spring practice of 2013, 270 pounds.
Last year, Seferian-Jenkins — who is currently suspended from the Huskies following an offseason DUI arrest — was the proverbial matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. He caught 69 passes from his tight end position, scored seven times (including in six of Washington’s final eight games) and averaged 12.3 yards per reception.
Now, with Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz heading off to the NFL Draft, there may not be a better player at his position left in college football.
And that’s exactly why former Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant has tested himself repeatedly against his ex-teammate this offseason, in preparation for what he’ll face in the NFL.
“Going against a bigger body,” explains the 5-11 Trufant, “it’s practice just being patient in my techniques, playing through contact, making hard catches, things like that.”
The 22-year-old Trufant envisions himself as a shut-down corner in the NFL, perhaps even owner of his own “island” on the field like Darrelle Revis.
He’s also aware that NFL offenses are ever-changing entities, with an increasing number of teams utilizing spread and multi-tight end looks. So, even as Trufant piques the interest of more and more franchises en route to the draft, the reality is that he has yet to see an NFL offense at work first-hand and face the challenge of covering the world’s best pass-catchers on a regular basis.
To counter that inexperience, Trufant spent time following Washington’s 2012 season testing his wares against returning Huskies QB Keith Price, soon-to-be senior wide receiver Kevin Smith and others — informal workouts spread around the school’s spring practices.
But it’s the one-on-one battles with Seferian-Jenkins that stand out in Trufant’s mind.
“He’s definitely going to be the best in the country,” Trufant says, “so it’s good for me.”
Trufant is not far from the top rung of the ladder at his position, either, at least in terms of this year’s incoming rookie class. Buoyed by a 4.38 40-yard dash at the combine in February, Trufant now appears to be a safe bet to be a Round 1 draft pick later this month. (Don Banks has him as the No. 21 selection, by Cincinnati, in his latest SI.com Mock Draft.)
It’s far from a smoke-and-mirrors job that has Trufant in the first-round mix.
Consistently during his career at Washington, he took on the opposition’s top receiver and won the battle. Never was that more true than in Washington’s 24-14 loss to USC last October, when Trufant was matched up for extended periods with superstar USC receiver Marqise Lee. Lee averaged nine-plus catches, 132 yards and more than a touchdown per game last season, but those numbers would have been higher had Trufant not had a hand in holding Lee to two grabs and 32 yards in Husky Stadium.
Granted, USC jumped out to an early lead in that game and did not need to air it out much in the second half. But Trufant’s work against Lee still stood out in a tough defeat — Washington’s defensive coordinator, Justin Wilcox, praised him as “a hell of a player” afterward.
“He just played like he plays,” Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian said of Trufant in his postgame press conference. “I don’t know if he covered Marqise every play when they did throw it … but it sure felt like he covered him pretty well, and it sure felt like he was confident doing it.”
There is little question that Trufant will carry that confidence to the next level. “I feel I’m honestly one of the best corners in this draft,” he told NFL.com last month, a sentiment he continues to carry.
“I just try to show all the teams that I’m well-rounded, that I can do a lot of different things,” says Trufant, who has a reputation for stepping up on the run and contends he can cover from any area of the field. “That you can do a little bit of everything with me.”
Adding to Trufant’s current swagger is the little extra edge he’s gained by having two brothers playing in the NFL. The eldest, 32-year-old Marcus, has been in Seattle secondary since 2003; 30-year-old Isaiah joined the Jets in 2011. Their paths to the NFL were markedly different. Marcus was a highly-coveted member of the 2003 draft class and was taken No. 11 overall by the Seahawks; Isaiah went undrafted in 2006, then bounced around between the AFL, UFL and Arenafootball2 before getting his shot with the Jets in 2010.
Obviously, Desmond’s trending toward following in Marcus’ footsteps — Demond even matched Marcus’ 40 time from ’03.
“Isaiah took the long road,” Marcus says. “He’s a real resilient person, so he taught me that no matter what the people say — the critics — just continue to belief in yourself. Chase your dream and things will happen.
“With Marcus, I’m going through a similar process. I learned [from him] just that confidence in the combine, that you’ve got to prove yourself and have that swagger.”
However, being the brother of a pair of NFL vets won’t help Desmond out a whole lot when teams get right down to it, of course. Even though he says people mistake him for Marcus from time to time, the soon-to-be rookie has marched to his own beat, even playing for the arch-rival of Marcus’ Washington State Cougars.
Barring a surprise on draft day, Trufant will not be selected as highly as his brother, either; that just means he’ll need to work that much harder to prove he’s capable of playing in the pros like he did at Washington. And each rep, be it lifting weights with Marcus in Seattle or lining up opposite Seferian-Jenkins for a little friendly competition, ought to help.
“Just continue to do what I’m doing, be yourself, try not to be nervous, let it come naturally,” Trufant says of how he’s preparing for the draft. “I’ve done all the work.”
Seferian-Jenkins can attest to that.