The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Poly alum Jayon Brown and PlayFair Sports Management.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by JuJu Smith-Schuster and the JuJu Foundation.
One of the sports world’s most unique fraternities may be about to gain another member. Long Beach Poly alum and standout Oregon State defensive back Alex Austin announced last week that he’s leaving Corvallis with his sights set on the NFL, declaring for this year’s NFL Draft in the hopes that he’ll become the next Jackrabbit to make it to the league. If he does so, he’ll join more than 20 Poly alums to play defensive back in the NFL, including most recently standout rookie Jack Jones (Patriots) and Iman “Biggie” Marshall (Ravens).
“It was a long, long process of deciding for sure, and I ended up just having to go with my heart feeling, and that was me wanting to bet on myself,” said Austin.
Although he’d been with the Beavers for four years after earning Moore League Player of the Year honors his senior season at Poly, he was still only a redshirt sophomore eligibility-wise thanks to the bonus year afforded NCAA athletes by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many “old sophomores” are opting to return to college for their junior and senior seasons in order to be older and more physically mature before heading to the Draft, but Austin decided his time was now.
“I’ve been going back and forth about it for two months now, I’d make up my mind and then rethink it, just praying trying to get a sign from the man above about what to do,” he said.
It was at a New Year’s Eve celebration where someone told him they could see that 2023 was going to be a lucky year for him that he decided to take the plunge.
“That was a little sign right there and I went for it,” he said.
Like all athletes who opt to leave the grinding routine and familiar habits of the NCAA world, the last week or two have been an adjustment for Austin, who is training with House of Athlete in Tampa, Florida, where he is represented by First Round Management.
“It’s been an adjustment for sure, new workouts, working completely new muscles, it’s been a cool experience to have it be my job to just try and learn and develop my body to be the absolute best it can be for March,” he said.
The NFL Combine is typically scheduled for the first week of March, and it will be held again in Indianapolis this year. Austin won’t be the only Jackrabbit spending the first two months of 2023 trying to make sure he’s at his best for a trip to the Midwest--tight end Cam McDonald (Florida State) will be there, along with others that could include Jermayne Lole (Louisville).
Austin said his confidence in his ability to play at the next level has come in part from watching guys he’s guarded successfully in college have success in the NFL. As Oregon State’s top DB the last two seasons, he’s often been lined up against the Pac-12’s best, including Drake London and other top USC and Washington receivers.
“Those are some of the best guys in the country and I’ve made plays against them,” he said. “I’ve always had confidence in myself but as those guys have moved on I’ve thought, ‘If they’re doing this, why can’t I?’”
Austin was a two-time All-Pac-12 defensive back and was also honored as a Wuerffel Trophy Watch List player, the award given annually to an NCAA football player who’s gone above and beyond in community service. Austin created an NIL partnership that provided thousands of dollars of scholarships to disadvantaged students. He credited his father and mother (Long Beach councilman Al Austin and longtime civic leader Daysha Austin) with the drive to give back, even while he was still technically an amateur.
The thing that gave him the most pause about leaving college wasn’t whether or not he could make it, but missing the opportunity to play against his little brother in a major college rivalry game. Daylen Austin signed with Oregon in December, which meant that the “Civil War” in Oregon between the two programs could have seen brother against brother.
“It would have been great to play against him, that would have been a cool storyline for my family and the fans, but I had to take my opportunity,” said Alex. “It’s real now. These past two months I’ve heard so much from so many people about go back to school or come out now, I’m glad to have made the decision and be able to work now.”