It’s hard for Lancaster (Texas) High cornerback Jordon Austin to step on a football field right now. Still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in October, it’s a reminder of what he’s not quite able to do at the moment.
That was on full display earlier this month when Austin was at The Opening regional in Frisco, Texas, but not going through drills. Instead, on the sidelines decked out in Oklahoma apparel as the OU commit didn’t have a chance to compete.
The physical grind has been tough for Austin, now ranked No. 29 cornerback in the nation, but it pales in comparison to the mental comeback.
“Definitely mental,” said Austin about what’s been tougher. “I went through a mad phase. I went through a sad phase. I went through all the phases of an injury. I feel perfect, but my doctor says I’m not there yet.
“Not being able to do spring ball and go through everything my team and be in the trenches, it’s the little stuff like that.”
All Austin can do is shake his head about how he was injured. His leg wasn’t 100 percent to begin with when his competitive mentality took over during pregame drills. In a defensive back drill where you’re supposed to catch the ball at its highest point, Austin came down hard on his leg.
He knew immediately something was wrong. He couldn’t put any pressure on it and his junior season was cut short.
Austin is on the road back. He said he is expected to miss 6-8 months, which is pretty common for an ACL tear, but his doctor said he’s closer to the six-month timetable than the eight-month one.
“Physically? I feel ready,” Austin said. “I look perfect and feel like I’m where I should be. I feel like I can go, but my doctor is trying to make sure I don’t push it. I feel ready, but I’m not. All those pieces aren’t connected together yet.”
Austin has a strong support system. He has his teammates and coaches at Lancaster. He has his family, including former OU cornerback Dakota Austin. But this battle has been something Jordon has opted to try to combat alone.
It’s almost as if it’s a sign of weakness in Jordon Austin’s eyes to ask for help or to admit how tough the process has been. It’s one reason why the only time he has been to OU during this stint was for senior day at Bedlam for Dakota to watch OU’s 38-20 win vs. Oklahoma State.
“I try to keep it to myself because I don’t anybody to know what I’m going through when those doors are closed,” Austin said. “There have been some hard, hard days. I mean you just don’t understand how badly I want to play.
“The therapist keeps asking why I’m going so hard, attacking it so hard. I just miss it.”
Austin was offered by OU at last year’s spring game and then committed to the Sooners later in the summer. He said his relationship with defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks is good but admits he hasn’t talked to Cooks as much because he wants to prove he’s 100 percent again.
That’s the motto right now for Austin, who was ranked in the Scout 300 last summer. He wants to prove to everybody he will come back the same player or even a better player than he was before.
The recruiting trail has gone cold for Austin since the injury. No real junior film to show people, it has been a lot of wait-and-see.
“Every school I go to, they hit with the line of they would love to offer but have to wait,” Austin said. “I want them to just be honest and say they want to know if I’m the same guy.”
OU could be in the same spot. No signs of wavering, the Sooners will have to see if Austin can return to his form as well. OU has stood by his side throughout this process, but it’s a cutthroat business and Austin understands that.
Austin has added some offers but nothing to the level of the Sooners at this point. Austin is anxious to return to Norman, but he wants to do it on his terms when he’s able to compete.
He said he felt like he was cheating last December when he was at OU for Bedlam because he wasn’t 100 percent. He said he felt like he was lying because he was walking around looking normal but not actually being normal.
He wants that to change. He wants to be normal. He wants to tell Cooks and the rest of the coaches he’s back to 100 percent.
“I don’t want him (Cooks) to know the process,” Austin said. “All he knows to know is that I’m as good as I ever was.
“I’m not going to be timid. I want to go hard. I want to sweat hard. I want complain because it’s hard. You know how badly I want to do a ladder right now? I want to do any drills so much right now. I’m going to be back.”