Posted by Austin on April 11, 2014
I guess I started playing football when I was seven in St. Louis when my dad was with the Rams. At that point in his career, we moved back and forth from St. Louis to Greensboro. So halfway through the year – in January of every year – we'd move back to Greensboro.
Starting in the fifth grade, I began to stay in Greensboro year round. I actually went to a private school that didn't have a football team – Wesleyan Christian Academy. I knew I'd have to eventually transfer out of Wesleyan, because it didn't have football. But in the meantime, I played Pop Warner for a team called the Oakridge Colts.
For Oakridge, I played quarterback and middle linebacker. The reason I played quarterback was because my dad always told me you can't play receiver if you don't have anybody to throw you the ball. I could throw the ball, but I've always been a good runner. So I ran a lot of read-option.
My dad's last year in the league when he was with the Indianapolis Colts, my Pop Warner team was one win away from winning the Pop Warner Championship. That was kind of a heartbreaker.
I transferred to Kernodle Middle School, which had a football team, but I didn't play my seventh grade year because I was small and hadn't hit my growth spurt. But I still played Pop Warner.
My eighth grade year I decided to play for Kernodle, just because I knew in high school it didn't matter how big I was, I had to play. That season I played quarterback and receiver, because we had a quarterback who started in the seventh grade. Every other series, him and I would switch off between quarterback and receiver. It was one of those things where he could throw and he was a big kid – he was probably 6-foot/6-foot-1. But I had a great year my eighth grade year. I ended up winning the MVP of my middle school team.
I went into high school and I went to Western Guilford, where it wasn't really good academically and the sports hadn't been really good. I started out the year on JV playing quarterback, because they didn't have any other quarterbacks. As the year went on, I became the backup quarterback for varsity. Our varsity team wasn't very good and our quarterback wasn't very good. At times I'd go in on Friday nights – I was about 5-foot-7 and 140 pounds – and I was getting hit by guys like Eric Ebron, when he went to Ben Smith. But it was a good learning experience and I realized I just wanted to play.
I actually started at quarterback as a freshman on homecoming. I completed 19-of-29 for 250 yards and three touchdowns, and I ran in one. I ended up winning player of the week, which was a big deal since I was a freshman.
The following spring, my dad took the job with the Carolina Panthers, but I was playing baseball for Western Guilford in Greensboro at the time. I was starting on varsity at shortstop, so I couldn't move right when he got the job. Ironically, my baseball team lost to Providence in the first round of the playoffs. My dad came to the game and after the game I stayed in Charlotte and I toured Providence. I just decided it was better for me to move there to get into a better environment with academics, better sports, and I could play receiver.
So I made the move and started at receiver. I was still small, but I had a good year. We weren't very good, though – we were 2-9. It was one of those things where the team didn't buy in and didn't really care. But it was a fun year, because I was able to play varsity at receiver.
Only my dad and I lived in Charlotte – the rest of my family was still in Greensboro. So after my sophomore year, I tried to move back to Greensboro and transfer to Northern Guilford where I would have been teammates with T.J. Logan and Daniel Downing. But they denied me, because they said it would be too big a deal since they got into trouble recently for kids transferring in for sports. I tried again my junior year and got further, but they denied me again saying that my name would attract too much attention. So I just decided to stay in Charlotte, which wasn't a bad thing because my baseball team was really good my junior year.
My senior year, Providence switched football coaches from Randy Long to Justin Hardin. Coach Long was a great coach, but he didn't relate to us like Coach Hardin could because he's a younger guy, he listens to the music we listen to, and he knows how we think. The transition was great, because our seniors really bought into Coach Hardin. We wanted to win, because we were so tired of losing. We made the playoffs in a tough conference, beat West Meck twice, and we built so much confidence that we thought we could beat any team. We went down to Mallard Creek in the second round and played them tough, but they were just a great team.