Tavon Austin Learning the Ropes in Rookie Season - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Tavon Austin Learning the Ropes in Rookie Season


When Tavon Austin came off the NFL Draft board with the eighth selection back in April, the St. Louis Rams did not hold back in expressing their expectations of the West Virginia speedster.

He wowed scouts with his 40-yard dash and precision running routes and catching the football at the Combine and he was the recipient of plenty of praise during camp from veteran defenders who saw what the rookie was capable of. Despite all of that, Austin's first season in the NFL has gone decidedly unlike what he likely envisioned.

Through eight games, Austin shows 207 yards on 31 receptions with two touchdowns – both coming in a Week 2 loss to Atlanta. He is struggling to become a mainstay in the offensive game plan as the Rams struggle to figure out how to correctly use his skill set.

"It's definitely different for me, but you've just got to keep coming to work and hopefully playing time will be increased more and I'll be more expanded in the offense," Austin said after Monday night's loss to Seattle. "Right now, whatever they want me to be, that's what I'm doing."

Against the Seahawks, Austin had just two catches for nine yards, the first being a loss of three yards after quarterback Kellen Clemens hit him in the flats with a defender right in his face.

Austin, who was a walking highlight with the Mountaineers and made a college career of making defenders look silly, is still waiting for the time when he can show those same moves against professionals. Clearly, the game is faster and the athletes are on a different level, but he believes that he can play with the big boys just as well as he did in a WVU uniform.

"It definitely gets frustrating, just because I know what I can do out there," said Austin. "I'm really not sure yet, but it's all going to come together one day and I will be successful."

Across the field from Austin on Monday night, second-year linebacker Bruce Irvin was suiting up for the Seahawks. Irvin recalls the frustration that came with a limited role in certain packages as a rookie rather than being able to stay on the field every down.

He still managed to get to the opposing quarterback for eight sacks as a rookie, but now he sees his former WVU teammate in Austin going through a similar situation where he only gets a few opportunities in the first place. His message is to stay true to what he knows he is capable of and the results will begin to show.

"It's his first year. You've got to earn your stripes, baby," said Irvin. "You've got to humble yourself. He's used to being that guy. It's different. It's probably different for him, but like I tell him every week, just humble yourself, keep working hard and when your chance comes, take advantage of it."

Austin has more chances in the return game as he lines up on both punt and kickoff return and is just waiting for the hole to open that will spring him free. His coaches say he needs to learn that at this level, he won't always be looking to take the return to the house. Sometimes it's just as important to secure the ball and simply get positive yardage.

When he awaits a kickoff, Austin has Stedman Bailey by his side on the field. The two of them work together to try setting up the Rams with the best field position possible. In fact, they do just about everything together in this rookie season, helping the other to progress.

They also keep an eye on their former team, though, and when Austin looks at a struggling 3-5 team in Morgantown, he sends words of encouragement to keep fighting as long as there are games left to play.

"I've seen them play in a couple of big games and big fights, but they just didn't come out with the win," said Austin. "It's cool, they've just got to keep on pushing and trust in each other and just believe in each other and they'll get it done."

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