Aaron Austin Grateful For ‘Second Chance'

On December 18th hundreds of Junior College players will sign letters of intent with various Colleges. However, none of them will be more excited than tight end Aaron Austin. The Fresno City College standout was scheduled to join the Sun Devils in the fall, and due to academics, he had to put those plans on hold. Despite other schools' attempts to sway him from his original commitment, he stuck with ASU. Now that he has passed his classes, he's ready and eager to start his career in Tempe.

"I'm ready to go"! exclaimed Austin when we asked him how he felt the day before signing day. "I was redshirting and not playing Football was real hard. Sometimes, I couldn't even watch Football because I was so disappointed. I'm just happy that I got a second chance." The 6-6 250 tight end was regulated to weight room workouts ("I went every day."), and playing catch. Austin, who was voted the #3 college player in the nation by JC Football.com, will benefit from his redshirt year and will have two years of eligibility in the maroon and gold.

When Austin learned in the summer that he wouldn't qualify academically, he sought the advice of others. "I was thinking a lot about what I was gonna do. I talked to my parents and to (ASU's tight ends) Coach Osborne. He was always supportive of me from day one. I respect him a lot, and he respects me. Everybody told me to just redshirt and take care of my classes." This whole experience has taught the 2001 SuperPrep's No. 1 junior college tight end some valuable lessons. "I think it just gave me a lot of good experience. I learned a lot about responsibility, and taking care of what I do in the classroom." The ASU junior to-be said that he realizes that some naysayers think he will continue to struggle academically at Arizona State. Nonetheless, he says that those doubters: "Just motivate me to do better in the classroom."

The former Fresno City College player had a stellar sophomore year in 2001. He had 29 catches for 419 yards and nine touchdowns in ten regular season games. He was second on the team in touchdown receptions (he was the team's best as a freshman), and he averaged 14.45 yards per catch. When he was headed to Tempe this past fall, some anointed him the starter over ASU's senior tight end Mike Pinkard. Pinkard's track record of inconsistency, along with Austin failure to qualify had Sun Devil fans almost wiling to write off the tight end position as an integral part of coach Dirk Koetter's explosive offense. Ironically, Pinkard went on to have a career year with 503 yards and five TD's, and is virtually assured of being no worse than a second round pick in the NFL draft. Austin believes that coming to ASU a year later than intended is all part of a much bigger plan. "I feel that god did it for a reason. They (ASU) need a tight end after Pinkard leaves, and I'm coming in with the most experience. It's also better that I'm coming in the spring, so I can work out with the team in the weight room and go through spring ball. This way, I can learn the offense early in the year. If I came in the fall, I would have to learn the offense only four weeks before our first game."

In a previous interview with DevilsDigest.com, the tight end spoke about how much he relishes being a clutch player. "From my experience, if it's 3rd and 3, I'm the person the quarterback needs to go to. I'm the go to go guy who's gonna make the first down or score a touchdown." When we asked him about his skills he replied: "My speed and my routes are my strong points. I do need to work on blocking and releasing from the line...I run a 4.7, some guys said I ran a 4.5 but that's all screwed up (smile)." Although he has demonstrated outstanding abilities in the passing game, he enjoys being down in the trenches with the rest of the offensive line. "I know I have good skills at receiver, but I feel more comfortable at tight end. Sometimes when the offense is spread out, I like to be close to line to help my teammates block, and double team a defensive end if we need to." In that same article, his wide receivers coach Fred Biletnikoff Jr. (son of Raiders NFL Hall of Fame receiver) bestowed a plethora of compliments on Aaron Austin. "He's a special weapon...very fast for a tight end. He never got out run. A linebacker or safety is too slow to cover him, and a cornerback doesn't have the size to bring him down...He scored 15 touchdowns in two years, which is a school record. When you pass to him, you know he'll get you the tough yard or make a big play... He's a good blocker, but sometimes he has a hard time staying low. But he never got over powered. ... Coming from a small city, he was so quiet in the beginning. Now he can't stop talking (smile)."

While Austin tried not to watch too many Football games during his redshirt year, he did watch his future team every chance he could. "My whole family was watching ASU's games. I'm happy that they had a great season. You can tell that the team was really good…When Pinkard would drop a pass, I would yell at the TV saying I could make that catch (smile)." Even though he stressed to schools such as Louisiana Tech, Fresno State, and Oregon that he won't waiver on his ASU commitment, he said that those programs were calling him as late as three weeks ago. "I just told them from day one that ASU is the school I signed with, and that's the school I'm going to. It never entered my mind to go anywhere else."

The tight end plans to come down to Tempe sometime after January 15th. "It will be hard for me to leave my son behind, but I'm excited about leaving Fresno to go there. I wish I was there right now." For now, his signed letter of intent will make the journey to the desert. The humble Austin lists San Francisco's flamboyant receiver Terrell Owens as his favorite player. While Owens is known for his showboating antics and the flare for the dramatic, Austin plans not to delay the inevitable any longer than he should. "I plan to fax my letter around 8:30. I'm not gonna make the coaches sweat (smile)." And in turn ASU fans should probably put any concerns over the tight end position to rest for the next two seasons…

Sun Devil Source Top Stories