Up Close: Marvin Austin, Part III

WASHINGTON, D.C. --- North Carolina signee Marvin Austin is ready for the culture shock of moving from the densely populated city life to the southern suburbia of Chapel Hill. He's convinced he can adjust to vastly different surroundings through his infectious personality, his notorious football ability and with the help of his new mentor, UNC defensive line coach John Blake.

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  • Part II

    When visiting Ballou High School and seeing Austin interacting with his classmates, it seems you either love him or you hate him. Most kids look up to him and clamor for his attention. He can't walk down the halls without an entourage of students haloing his every step.

    Then there are those that appear to resent the way he's overcome the many pitfalls of adolescents in his neighborhood through a positive outlook, self-discipline and hard work.

    "It's hard living in D.C. and not getting into ‘the life,'" Austin said. "In D.C., there are a lot of guys out there trying to get fast money and get into the life. They want stuff fast. They want the cars and the girls, but I know they're going to fade away in a matter of time.

    "I had a lot of people around me to support me and help me through all that stuff."

    That's the type of person Austin is – always looking ahead to the next challenge at the next level. With his eye's straight ahead, he knows he won't stray off course.

    "The biggest thing for me was just to stay humble," he said. "I just listened to my parents. My father always reprimanded me when I did things I wasn't supposed to do. He set a great foundation for me. My mother, with the love and the care that she gave me, I never wanted for anything. As long as I held up my end of the bargain and did what I was supposed to do, I got whatever I wanted."

    Austin will certainly have opportunities to stray from his goals in college as well, and since those pressures will come in different forms than he's used to - and since his parents won't be quite so close – he's preparing himself now mentally for those challenges.

    That's one reason he's so glad Blake will be close by.

    "Coach Blake is going to take care of me, just like Coach [Butch] Davis took care of him," Austin said.

    Austin's coach Moses Ware, who was instrumental in his pupil's decision making process, said he, too, was taken away by Davis and Blake's approach.

    "Nothing was scripted on what they said," Ware said. "They never got into the negative recruiting. And if it were another [coaching staff] that was at Carolina, they wouldn't have had the confidence to go after Marvin."

    The fact that Davis has elevated Blake to the role of associate head coach also impressed Ware.

    "When you've got a black man in the upper echelon of the coaching staff…that means a lot," he said.

    For Davis, Austin was a focal point almost immediately after taking over for John Bunting last December. Although Blake was yet to be named to his staff, he and UNC linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen introduced themselves to Austin and his coaches.

    "Marvin Austin was an absolute pleasure to recruit," Davis said. "I've had some opportunities to recruit some extraordinarily high-profile players, and you absolutely have to love this young man. He's passionate, he's charismatic, and he's got an unbelievable personality. He's like a magnet – people just want to be around him.

    "The more we got to know him, we felt like we had a lot of credibility with John Blake's relationship with him and his reputation as a defensive line coach," he said. "John's played the position and coached the position at the highest level."

    From the initial visit until he verbally committed and signed on Signing Day, Austin had UNC at or near the top of his list. However in what was a publicly debated decision process for many months, many so-called recruiting experts believed Austin was headed to Florida State.

    It just didn't seem possible that a new coach of a program that had struggled in recent years could step right in and impact one of the nation's top prospects.

    "Florida State couldn't give me what Carolina could, and it was closer to home," Austin said. "I could come home and see my parents any time I wanted. Coach Davis said I could get the number that I wanted.

    "I was just looking at the big picture," Austin continued. "Florida State has dropped off for the last three years, and Wake Forest won the ACC; and I think we can make a better team at North Carolina. We've got an All-American wide receiver right now, two more coming in this year, and one coming in behind them. We've got the top D-tackle in the country coming in, and we've got another top rated D-tackle on the other side of him. We've got a good quarterback in Mike Paulus. And a 250-pound running back that's going to be bruising people all day.

    "Now I'm a Tar Heel, and it's going to be beautiful. Just put me out there and let me put my hand down. You're not going to say, ‘Let's wait ‘till next year.' I think they're going to say, ‘You need to put him in right now.'"

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