Following My Heart
Posted by Austin on May 23, 2014
My freshman year, I was at Western Guilford and I was a quarterback. Going through the recruiting process, my dad and I always talked about what I should do because I knew that I wasn't going to be the 6-2, 6-3 quarterback that most schools wanted. I loved playing quarterback because I was decent at it – I could run it and I could throw it – and I always had the ball in my hands.
As time went on, I said, "Dad, what am I going to do when it comes to camps?" And he was like, "You're going to have to play receiver." That made me kind of nervous because I was playing quarterback and I hadn't really played receiver that much.
The whole spring period, even though I was playing baseball, I was working on receiver. Every day after school, I would work out with my dad at his park. I would work on routes and my hands and getting out of cuts.
I went down to a camp at Georgia and I won MVP at receiver. And then I went to South Carolina's camp. At the Gamecocks camp, Steve Spurrier, Jr. really liked me, but I didn't really like him that much to be honest with you. I also went to Wake Forest and they liked me.
I always thought that Wake Forest was going to recruit me the hardest, which wasn't the case. They were standoffish throughout the process. Every summer, I'd go to their camp and I'd really tear it up and Lonnie Galloway told me "You're the best receiver here. We really like you. We're going to offer you." But they never actually offered me and I think they were scared off by my size and my weight.
I moved to Providence my sophomore year and played receiver. It was a big difference because I think the Charlotte competition is greater than the competition in Greensboro, and I was moving to a completely new position.
During my sophomore year, we didn't really run an offense that would benefit me. We ran more of a run oriented offense, because my head coach was a line coach. I caught something like 15 balls that year and that wasn't going to help me with recruiting. It was discouraging.
The next summer, I went back to Georgia's camp because they kept recruiting me but they said they wanted to see me get bigger. I also went to Wake Forest again and I went to North Carolina for camp for the first time. That was the first time Coach Gunter Brewer and I got to work with each other.
Coach Brewer knew my dad really well and he had come to my school a bunch during my sophomore year, but we didn't really get to know each other until that camp. He was really the first coach that recruited me personally, which really played a part in my ultimate decision. I felt like he believed in me.
My junior year, I had a better year. I still only caught 22 balls, but halfway through the season our starting quarterback got hurt so they ended up moving me to quarterback. I actually played really well at quarterback scoring like 17 times. I had a bunch of really big games and I started getting a lot of coaches coming in to see me and the schools that were recruiting me before really started to pick it up.
I was really living in the moment. I knew I wasn't going to attract the SEC schools, because I wasn't going to be the 6-3, 220-pound receiver. So I appreciated all the people that were coming in and really soaking it in.
All the ACC schools were recruiting me. I was invited to visit Florida for an unofficial visit. Tennessee called me. Washington called me. A bunch of schools started to realize "Hey, this kid can really play."
A week after the receiver coach at Wake Forest, Lonnie Galloway, left and Taylor Stubblefield came in, they offered me. And then a week later, Ohio University offered me. At that point, I felt like a bunch of weight was lifted off my shoulders because I knew I could relax since I had somewhere to go. But I wanted more offers, because of the competitive side in me.
Coach Brewer contacted me and said "Hey, I want you to come to the Freak Show. It's going to be great competition. You know how I feel about you, but I want you to get in front of the coaching staff as a whole." I told him, "Listen, you better have an offer waiting for me, because I'm going to earn it."
I went to the Freak Show and I had a great camp. I ended up running a 4.48-second 40-yard dash, my broad jump was good, and my shuttle time was good. And I killed it in one-on-ones. I met with them before leaving and they said I went from a mid guy to top on their board. I asked Coach Brewer, "Hey, do you have that offer for me?" He said, "No, but I'm going to get you one."
The receiver coach at Virginia Tech, Aaron Morehead, knew my dad. So he called my dad and said, "Hey, I just watched Austin's film. I really like him and I showed it to Coach Beamer. We really like him so we want him to come to camp." So I went to the camp, ran a 4.47 and 4.46 40 and just had a great day. Coach Beamer and Coach Morehead watched me during the camp. After the camp, they brought me up to Coach Beamer's office and offered me on the spot. Coach Beamer said, "Listen, we love you. We love the way you play. We love your film. We love your competitiveness. We think you're the missing piece to us winning a national championship." I don't care who you are, when a coach as legendary as Coach Beamer says you're the "missing piece" that's going to make an impression.
I talked to Coach Brewer that next day. I was feeling good because I just got the offer, but I was getting discouraged because Carolina still hadn't offered me and I felt like it was my school. Because of our relationship, I knew we could be straight up with each other. So I told Coach Brewer, "Hey, I'm getting close to making a decision." He said, "I understand completely and you know I'm on your side. And you know how tight we are on scholarships." I understood, but then against I didn't understand.
I went back to Wake Forest for a camp, but I didn't participate. On my way to the Carolina Panthers' training camp – I work there every year – I called Virginia Tech and said, "Hey, I'm getting close to making a decision and I'll let you know by the end of the week." I told Wake Forest that, too, but with Virginia Tech I hinted that I was going to commit to them.
And then I called Coach Brewer and said, "I'm going to be making a decision and I'm going to be making one very soon. I just want to thank you for the opportunity and for recruiting me. I can't tell you how thankful I am for that." He then hangs up on me – I don't know if he meant to or not. He calls me back five minutes later and he says, "Give me until the end of the weekend. I don't have anything for you right now, but I'm going to find something." This was like Tuesday.
I was in the car with my dad so I said to him, "What do I do? Virginia Tech has already offered me and Wake Forest has offered me. I have seven offers, but I don't have one from Carolina." He goes, "Listen, Coach Brewer has been there since your sophomore year. He's the first one to recruit you and he's been loyal to you and he's been straight up with you. You do what you want, but from my perspective, I think you have to give him the time." I called him back and I said, "Alright, I'll give you through the weekend, but I can't give you any more than that."
I called Virginia Tech and told them what was going on. Coach Morehead said, "Are you serious?" He obviously got mad. He said, "They haven't offered you yet for a reason. They're going to offer you because we offered you."
Coach Brewer and I kept up through the week on Twitter. So then it comes to the weekend. I call him and said, "Alright, I have family members asking me about my commitment." He calls me back on Sunday afternoon at about 2:30 and says, "We got one for you. But I kind of want you to keep your decision on schedule, because we want you to make it fast. But Coach Fedora and I want you on board." I got off the phone and I was happy, but then I realized that my decision suddenly got much harder.
I talked to my dad and I said, "Carolina just offered me. What do you think?" He said, "It's on you now."
I knew Carolina was where I needed to be. It was where my heart was. I loved the coaching staff. I loved the guys that were there. And I knew that my goal in college was to win a championship and I knew that the guys there had the same goal as me. Plus, I knew the academics were great at Carolina.
About three hours later, I called Virginia Tech and I called Wake Forest and I thanked them for everything and I told them what I was about to do. It was definitely difficult, because Coach Morehead and I had a good relationship. He kind of had his words with me and then he called my dad.
And I called Coach Brewer and I told him, "I can't wait to play for you and I can't wait to play for Coach Fedora and Coach Anderson." I swear he busted my eardrum through the phone.