PISCATAWAY, N.J. — An ugly ankle injury suffered at the end of last season has kept fifth-year senior tight end D.C. Jefferson limited in spring ball. Off crutches, but unable to compete in many contact drills, Jefferson is focused on his mental development at a relatively new position.
A quarterback his whole life, Jefferson moved to tight end three seasons ago and has gone from raw talent to the most experienced on the roster at his position.
“Right now, I’m just taking a lot of mental reps from the tight ends that are out there doing the job and I’m helping them,” Jefferson said. “We all need to get this offense down pat right now, so we’re ready to take it a step farther in the summer.”
At 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, Jefferson fits the build of what NFL tight ends look like. But he has yet to take the next step in terms of production. In three seasons, Jefferson has just 27 catches for 392 yards and a touchdown.
With a new position coach, Darnell Dinkins, and another year of experience, Jefferson plans to make his fifth-year senior season a breakout one.
“I need to improve as a football player,” Jefferson said. “Every single day, that’s what I’m trying to do. It’s not like you can just focus on one thing. I have to get better.”
Jefferson credits Dinkins with helping him improve in the spring. A 10-year NFL player, Dinkins brings a unique perspective to the position group, Jefferson said.
“I enjoy having him around,” he said. “We can relate to Coach Dinkins a lot more because he’s a young guy and he’s been in the NFL. He knows what to look out for. He knows what NFL teams want to see.”
Like Jefferson, Dinkins moved from quarterback to tight end while in college.
“It’s something we sit back and laugh about,” Jefferson said. “We both had the same goal in mind at one point and saw that change. He made the best of his situation, so I’m trying to do the same thing.”
Dinkins has a simple message to the tight ends, one that is paying off, Jefferson said.
“A smarter player is a better player,” Jefferson said.
From a health standpoint, Jefferson is not ready for full contact drills on his ankle, but he expects to be when training camp begins.
“I feel pretty good right now,” he said. “My ankle’s coming along. My body is feeling good. I’m just working out to get better as fast as I can.
“It’s going to mean a lot [to get back on the field]. You don’t realize how much you love football until you’re hurt. I miss being out there so much.”