MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Born in Memphis, Calvin Austin’s dream was always to play football for the Memphis Tigers. He played at Harding Academy, was one of the best in the area, but the Tigers wanted him to run track.
“The track coach he was really recruiting me and he really wanted me. He was like I’m not going to let you leave the city. I was like the only way I want to come here is if I could play football too because that’s my first love,” Austin said.
He was frustrated when he wasn’t getting offer to play football for the Tigers, “Really that was all my pride taking over,” he said. “That’s when my Dad told me you have to put your pride to the side you don’t know what opportunity you could be missing by passing up on something just because you feel like you deserve it,”
The coaching staff at the time offered Austin to join the team as a preferred walk-on. He couldn’t get a scholarship because of the Bear Bryant rule. That states if you play football you can’t have a scholarship in another sport. He took up the offer and got to work.
“I got here and there was a point and I was like, I got some work to do. I’m not catching the ball, I’m not running routes like I want to, the play book is hard,” Austin said.
He redshirted his freshman year and saw some playing time the last two seasons. While turning into an All-American track runner on the 4x100 relay team.
“Dual sport guys, you see the shiftiness on the field,” added Tigers football head coach Ryan Silverfield. “There’s all this research that dual sport athletes in high school have a higher success rate in the NFL. I do think one it shows his competitive nature. Let’s start with that. A guys that’s able to run track and also be a football player and do it at a high level is kind of eye-opening.”
Austin’s opened plenty of eyes. Enough to be put on scholarship last season. And taking over as the top receiver this year when Damonte Coxie opted out. Rising to the occasion. Setting a school record for most consecutive 100+ receiving yard games, passing Anthony Miller with five.
“I wasn’t technically supposed to be here,” Austin said. “Since I didn’t get a scholarship, people didn’t think I could play at this level so that’s all in the back of my mind. And really that made me into the receiver and the person I am today because all I know is work.”
Austin has been named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list, which is given to the best receiver in college football.