Feeling no pain, Greg Austin ready for season

He hobbles a bit when he hasn't been walking much that day or spending his time on the exercise bike, a tradition now for the junior Husker. A slight limp, noticeable, but from our vantage point, you can't even get a measure of what his day-to-day test in tolerance is. Give up? Do something else? Maybe for others, but not for him. Greg Austin doesn't even know what that means.

Give up.

If you put it like that, someone that is in athletics will bristle. Give up? Quit? Throw in the towel?


Tell them then that they are looking at that as a choice or playing as a 300 pound linemen in division 1-A football and without any cartilage in one of their knees.

Yeah, giving up doesn't sound good, but when you put it THAT way, perhaps it's not such a bad idea.

Well, unless you are Greg Austin.

Since his freshman year, not even midway through the season, Austin has had to endure the trials and tribulations of a severe knee injury. An injury that ultimately resulted in the cartilage in that knee deteriorating to nothing.

You nor I can imagine the pain Austin goes through each day just to get around, but he's not "just" getting around, he's getting ready, ready to play another year with the big red.

That to would seem unthinkable, but since his injury, Austin has thought of nothing else. "I was never going to just give up," he said. "I didn't come here for that. I came here to play and to get my education."

That's pretty cut and dry for someone with a hang-nail or maybe they sprained their wrist. Not a knee injury, though. Not an injury that sometimes makes you not even want to get out of bed.

What's going to make someone go through this when they know that the pain will never go away?

"You have to love the game, that's for sure," Austin said. "I do. This has always been my game, so it's hard for me to just want to fold up and do something else, because this is what I want to do."

Greg's story has been documented enough, that these aren't new statements, the story itself hardly a headline. But, this up-coming year was a question. Not because Greg didn't want to try again, but because he didn't know if the coaches would even allow him to try.

Injured or not, however, Austin proved that he was still a force to be reckoned with, playing every game last year. "Oh, I can play," Greg said. "I can play, because I want to, but also, because I have a lot to play for."

Yes, Austin has a lot to play for, but it's not glory, eventual riches in the NFL or even that aforementioned love for the game. And, what Greg is playing for now isn't what he thought he would play for when he arrived at Nebraska.

It seems that it isn't just his physical health that's changed.

"When I got here, I was like a lot of young guys, I guess," he said. "I wanted to play for awhile, but I was thinking about the NFL and all that even before I took a snap."

"This injury made things a lot clearer for me, because it just showed that you need to think about where you are at and I know that even if I don't make it anywhere beyond Nebraska for football, I am coming out of this with a degree."

That education is supposed to mean something. It's why kids are supposed to go to school, even if they are doing it on the dime of that university, because they have some God-given athletic ability.

Alas, you will find as Greg himself has found that like him, some come in thinking just the way he did, which sponsors a little smile from him, but also the hope in that they won't have to learn the lesson he's had to over the last two years.

"You don't want to have something like this show you that your future isn't guaranteed," Greg said. "It would be nice if everyone just realized that coming in. You come in, get your education and play ball and no matter what, you've got a future after school."

"I see guys that don't know that yet. I just don't want them to learn the way I had to."

That learning process is about one thing mainly: pain

Pain when he gets up in the morning, pain when he walks to class or practice and pain whenever he touches the field.

It goes in phases, but by now, Greg knows when the pain is at its worst.

"Practice is always the worst," he said. "The adrenaline isn't going as much. I am not on the bike between series as much and I know it's going to be a long day."

Will you hear him complain? When he's hobbling around while others are bouncing, will you hear him mumble in disgust about what he could be doing to these guys if he was one hundred percent?

Maybe, if just briefly, but Austin admits that it's more out of frustration than how he actually feels. "I take getting beat at anything real personal," he said. "I hate it. I don't care how injured I am or if I can barely walk, I just don't like getting beat."

"So, sometimes you think about what you could be doing if I hadn't hurt my knee or where you would be at, but I know I am a smarter person and player than I have ever been, because I have to be if I want to get to the top."

That's another thing about Austin. It's not just his desire to play the game, despite the debilitating injury, it's the fact that even with all the young guys around him and other players coming in, he's still eyeing that number one spot on the depth chart as his.

"Darn right I want to start," Austin exclaimed. "Forget the injury, because I know that when I step on that field, I have to. There is no injury, my knee doesn't hurt and that spot belongs to me."

"Not once in my life have I ever settled for second best, so whatever is wrong with me, it doesn't matter. I still want to be at the top."

That may not happen. In the face of what he has to go through day-to-day, most fans think that it probably won't. Point of fact, while Austin is eagerly trying for the number one spot, he's hoping that regardless, his efforts will have done one thing:

Left an impression.

"I'm hoping that these younger guys see that sometimes, things don't go the way you want," he said. "I hope that they see that you just can't come into here thinking that it's a couple of years and you are out the door to the NFL."

"The biggest thing, though, is that they have to get their education. They have to know that when you walk out of these doors, what do you have to show for the time you were here. You have to have that degree, man. You have to, because if football doesn't work out, what are you going to do?"

Greg may want the younger guys coming to learn from his experiences, but he doesn't consider himself a teacher by any stretch of the definition. He'd just as soon not be that example of how to deal with certain things that can go wrong.

He is, though, a symbol and oft-times an inspiration as to what it takes to do when people and especially your body are telling you to do anything but.

Greg isn't worried about a legacy, because he's still got so much time left to play. If someone learns something from being around him, however, that's ok, it's a bonus to an existence that some would say needs some. Not Greg, though; he's got all the frills he needs.

"I am going to school and playing football at Nebraska," he said. "Can't feel sorry for someone who can say that. I know I don't."

"The games, those fans – when you are in that stadium, there is no pain, because you got 80,000 people taking it away."

"I got that and I ain't letting it go."

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