The final installment of a two-part feature focusing on the growth of Redskins receiver Terrence Austin.
On Fan Appreciation Day at Redskins Park, Terrence Austin spent well over an hour signing autographs for every kid on site. Then he spoke at length with several reporters before heading into the building to work out.
Prior to all that he had participated in a three-hour practice in the sweltering August heat.
Most players rarely make themselves so accessible, so why does Austin go out of his way to help anyone and everyone?
“When I was younger, Gary Payton was signing autographs and I went to get [one] and he rolled the window up on me in his limo,” he said “I was sick after that and I was like, ‘I’ll never do that to a kid.’ Anytime I have a chance to sign autographs I’ll sign them.”
Needless to say Austin is no longer a Payton fan, but his commitment to those around him fits the mentality of this year’s Redskins team.
The distractions are gone and character counts as Mike Shanahan sets in place the foundation for the rest of his tenure in Washington. It isn’t a given Austin fits into the head coach’s plans, but his efforts both on and off the field will likely merit serious consideration.
“It’s all about just trying to show the coaches that I [have] some type of value,” he said. “[Showing them] I can be a jack-of-all-trades.”
With several rounds of roster cuts upcoming, Austin is playing against the odds. If that bothers him, he doesn’t show it. In fact, he’s embraced the uphill climb, knowing in the end it could help keep him from becoming an afterthought.
"Competition won't do anything but make us better," Austin said. "I like it. It keeps me on my game everyday. It lets me know like, 'Hey you know if you want to be able to be in this spot you got to compete with this guy.’ You know you can't be making too many mistakes because the guy behind you is going to gain or the guy ahead of you is going to separate."
For guidance, Austin need look no further than a few lockers down at fellow survivor Anthony Armstrong. Like Austin is this season, the 28-year old receiver was on the bubble in 2010 before carving out a spot on the final roster.
Armstrong has talked about how much heart and determination it took to weather multiple years in the Intense Football League, waiting for a shot at the real thing. He practiced on parking lots in Texas until the Redskins signed him to their practice squad in 2009.
Armstrong made the most of his opportunity, winning over the coaching staff in 2010 with a strong showing in training camp. He played in 15 games, starting 11 of them. His 44 catches filled a massive void behind Santana Moss and he quickly became one of the more vocal players on the team.
Such a rapid rise to prominence isn’t unheard of, but Austin knows he’ll have to stay incredibly focused to duplicate Armstrong’s success story. Three more head-turning performances in the preseason might not be enough, but like Armstrong, it’s difficult to tell a player with Austin’s production and upside “no.”
“If I’m given the opportunity I promise you I can do [what Armstrong did],” Austin said. “I can promise you that because I work and I prepare myself and I’m the type of guy that when the lights come on, I want to win.
“I’m going to do anything possible to help the team out,” he continued. “And whether that’s me being on the field getting 40 or 50 grabs or if it’s me out there on special teams tackling or returning kicks or whatever it is, I just want to be able to help and be a part of the team.”