Catching Up With Austin Joyner

Right now, one would expect Marysville-Pilchuck senior Austin Joyner to be participating in track and finishing up his school work in time for graduation. You would be half right. spoke to the 5-10.5, 185-pound athlete about a surgery that has him on the sidelines instead of the jumping pit.

“I came back and competed one time,” Joyner said when asked about track. “It’s because my meniscus surgery, and I need that to heal up before I get to U-Dub. I didn’t want to put any extra stress on it, and jumping puts extra stress on it right now.”

Joyner is planning to see his doctor Thursday for a checkup to make sure everything is on track. “If it’s not close to 100 percent, it’ll be really, really close,” he said.

There’s something else that’s really close; Joyner leaving Marysville for Seattle and the University of Washington. With his signature on a letter of intent the first Wednesday in February, his college education was paid for - in exchange for playing football for the Huskies.

“I keep in touch with the coaches,” said Joyner. “I talk to them a couple times a week. Besides them, just doing things on my own - training on my own - and getting ready to go down there June 27th (for the LEAP program).

“Coach (Jimmy) Lake, he’s my DB Coach. I keep in touch with him, but I talk to coach Pete (Chris Petersen) too. I talk to him just as much. They are just making sure I’m ready for it and making sure I’m doing everything I need to be doing prior to coming in to the program.”

One of those things Joyner is being asked to do is get himself in excellent shape before fall camp. It’s not easy considering he’s still rehabbing a knee. “Since I have the lifting packet with the conditioning exercises and the lifting I need to be doing, it makes it an easier transition for when I get to the program,” he said.

What about Joyner’s future position at Washington? Recruited early as a running back, colleges did an about face when confronted with the idea of Joyner playing cornerback. It took a little extra evaluation, but eventually the Huskies came around to the notion. Does that mean he could still be a two-way threat a la Shaq Thompson and John Ross?

“It’s come up before, but it’s nothing serious yet,” Joyner said when asked about the possibility of getting a carry or two on offense. “It’s just a thought.”

It may come as a surprise to some, but Joyner is also heavily investing on his ability as a return specialist. A lot of people don’t know about his expertise there because he hasn’t done it a lot. But there’s a good reason for that.

“When I’m back there, people don’t even kick it close to me,” he said. “I’ve only had one or two chances out of all the times I’ve been back there. They’ll squib it, do whatever they have to do. I know I’m perfectly capable of returning punts and kickoffs for touchdowns because I did it all the time growing up. All the time. Every level right before high school I was returning stuff. I just have that natural vision for it.”

Joyner has always exuded confidence, and he’s just as confident in making his mark early in his UW career. “I already know I can make an impact, make a difference,” he said. “I just think my abilities are really good and are only going to get better with coach Lake’s teaching.”

Joyner has already seen what he will be up against this fall. He’s been to spring practices, where he saw Sidney Jones, Darren Gardenhire, and Naijiel Hale do their thing. “I see who is doing things right and who is doing things wrong, and it’s really easy to show it,” he said when asked what he looks for when watching practice. “I just kind of focus on the guys that are doing it right and see what I need to be improving on to beat them out.”

He added that he’s seen a few of the other freshmen during spring practices but hasn’t really been keeping in touch. He has had a few conversations with sophomore safety Budda Baker, though.

“He loves it,” Joyner said of his talks with Budda. “He said one thing I need to do coming into the program is be conditioned. That’s a huge factor. He and John Ross said that was the biggest change for them.”

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