Austin Waiting on NFL Decision

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – When Marvin Austin rolled out of bed on Dec. 1, the effervescent defensive tackle checked his cell phone and discovered a multitude of calls from various area codes. On that morning, the NFL talk ignited from message board speculation to a full-blown topic of conversation.

While plenty of fans and media types have made up their mind regarding Austin's decision to put his name into the 2010 NFL Draft, it's important to note that the 6-foot-3, 305-pound tackle wasn't even aware that Dec. 1 was the first day that agents could contact college juniors.

The Washington, D.C. native guessed that he received 10 calls last Tuesday.

When Austin was asked on Thursday if the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Dec. 26 would be his last game in a Tar Heel uniform, he responded, "I have no idea, man."

Jan. 15 marks the last day that eligible juniors and sophomores can sign up for April's NFL Draft, but the All-ACC second-team member indicated that he will announce his decision shortly after the bowl game to avoid any potential distraction.

North Carolina head coach Butch Davis met with members of his junior class that could potentially make the jump to the NFL last week to field questions from the players as well as gathering early thoughts and concerns on the process.

Ever since Austin arrived on campus as USA Today's Defensive Player of the Year in the summer of '07, his big hair and charming personality has made him a fan favorite. The downside to that popularity is the attention that a potential early move to the NFL brings, as he claims that he is asked about his decision by fans and family "all day, every day."

On Nov. 17, Austin posted the following tweet on his Twitter page – "Please people can u stop askin me if im going pro...its really getn on my freaking nerves...(I don't know) yet I still got a lot of college football."

The inquiries are even coming from the cozy confines of his D.C. home.

"My mother even asked me and I said, ‘Ma, I don't know. I have no idea,'" Austin said. "My little sister loves football and she always calls me – ‘Marvin, they said you were getting looked at by the Colts,' or, ‘They said you were going to this team.' And I'm like, ‘Nae Nae, don't call me with stuff like that. That's just people's opinion.' So I get it a lot and sometimes it gets frustrating, but it's just part of the game."

When Austin originally signed with North Carolina as Davis' poster child recruit in Feb. '07, he readily admits that his plan was to star for three years and then move on to the NFL ranks and the money that follows. Davis and defensive line coach John Blake informed him that he had the tools to trim the learning curve in time to make an early jump, if things played out correctly.

"But now there's different things and different circumstances with it being a junior-heavy class and you've got the lockout possibly coming," Austin said. "There are a number of different things that play into the decision. So it's something that I really have to sit down and brainstorm about with my parents and all of the people who are important to me, Coach Davis and Coach Blake."

And while the Tar Heel fan base may have expected a dominant defensive tackle from Day One, the Tommie Harris's of the world are few and far between. Most tackles need a full career to reach their full potential, such as Nebraska's fifth-year senior Ndamukong Suh, who Austin believes should win the Heisman Trophy this weekend.

The UNC junior finished the '09 regular season with 40 tackles, six tackles for loss and four sacks. He may have saved his best performance for last, delivering seven tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and a quarterback hurry in the season finale against N.C. State.

"The defensive line is probably the one area, with the exception of quarterback, that has the biggest learning curve for incoming high school kids," Davis told reporters during his press conference on Thursday. "Just simply because there is an enormous amount of contact every single play….

"All of the great players that I've ever been around – from Jerome Brown to Cortez Kennedy to Russell Maryland and all of those guys – every year they learned how to dominate the entire game the entire season. And [Austin] did. He's made some strides this season."

Mel Kiper ranks Austin as the No. 3 junior defensive tackle in college football, and it's likely that if the junior decides to put his name in the draft, he will become the 31st first-round draft pick on Davis' resume. But the third-year UNC head coach has consistently pointed out that the reason so many of his talented Hurricanes returned for their senior seasons is because they had a legitimate shot at winning a championship, whether it be on the conference level or even higher.

"I'm glad that I'm in this position that I can possibly go to the next level or come back and help Carolina win a national championship," Austin said. "It's a good position to be in. I'm happy."

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