Quinton Jefferson's time at Maryland featured its share of false starts, injuries, fatherhood and an early end to his college career after he declared for the NFL draft in December. On Saturday afternoon, the defensive lineman took the first step at the next level when the Seattle Seahawks traded up to select him in the fifth round with the No. 147 overall pick.
"It's great to know that they really wanted me," Jefferson said in a conference call. "I can't wait to come to the organization, be in front of the 12s and compete. That's the main thing. I am just so excited."
Jefferson's first meeting with Seattle media touched on everything that defined his time in College Park: the broken jaw that caused him to spend a time working in a Best Buy warehouse, the torn ACL that ended his junior season and his three daughters and wife. Five-year-old Zoey could be heard in the background early in the call, and Jefferson detailed his packed college years with how they helped him get to this point.
"I already was motivated from the jump, but having them it added," Jefferson said. "Everything I do is for them [and] my wife. I want them to have a good life. I want to be that role model for them, tell them they can do anything they want to. They can achieve their dreams because their father has."
In the third game of his junior season against West Virginia, Jefferson suffered the torn ACL that ended his year. He watched Maryland get to a second straight bowl game in 2014. But he was able to return stronger in 2015 and emerged as a breakout performer on the defensive line. Playing defensive tackle with Jacksonville Jaguars third-round pick Yannick Ngakoue on the end, Jefferson finished the season with 6 1/2 sacks and 12 1/2 tackles for loss.
"I was at a turning point where a lot of guys would have just folded up," Jefferson said. "I have always been a driven person, and I didn't let that get in my way. If anything, I feel like it made me stronger. Today just goes to show that you can really do anything."
In the draft process, there were questions about Jefferson's lower body strength and his ability to get a push against the bigger linemen in the NFL. But Jefferson remained staunch that the tape from his redshirt junior year spoke for itself and that he would exceed any expectations. Most pundits pegged Jefferson to be a sixth or seventh-round pick, though NFL.com draft analyst Mike Mayock ranked Jefferson as the No. 87 prospect in the draft.
Jefferson, though, brings plenty of experience in different positions as both a 3-4 defensive end and 4-3 defensive tackle. Seattle has had the reputation as one of the top defensive teams in the NFL over the past few seasons, and he expects to be utilized in a role that can play to his strengths.
"I bring a lot of versatility, because I played defensive end and tackle," Jefferson said. "I think I can along the front. I think I am very disruptive inside, with the run and the pass. I feel like I can really get after it on third downs, kick inside on sub packages and rush the passer. That's a premium in this league right now."