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Wednesday, August 21, 2013
USC OL commit Austin ready to be molded

By Blair Angulo

CLAREMONT, Calif. -- USC commit Jordan Austin could do without the awards. Plaque for camp standout? Medal for best offensive lineman? Trophy for league most valuable player? Nope, Austin couldn't care less about the hardware.

The Claremont (Calif.) High School three-star offensive tackle has already bagged the one thing he’s been striving for the last three years, so nothing else could validate all of his hard work.

“A lot of people might see USC by my name and think I must have been a beast ever since I was young,” Austin said. “In reality, I was under the radar. So if I were to get an award, I’d definitely want the recognition of most improved.”

After gaining more than 30 pounds this offseason and bursting onto the scene with a stellar performance at USC’s linemen camp in early June, the 6-foot-6, 280-pound Austin has completed the transformation from unconditioned freshman to intriguing Division I prospect. Before, he was big like he is now but, as he put it, too “comfy” to garner early interest from schools. In fact, if Claremont players would have been polled a couple years ago, Austin is sure he would have been voted least likely to earn a full football scholarship, even with the physical tools not often found on rosters at small public schools.

Austin has made tremendous progress, but he is the first to admit some aspects of his game could still be considered raw.

“I’m underrated at this point because people probably haven’t seen me, but I’ve got so much more to improve on,” Austin said. “I need to make sure my footwork shapes up and I have to be able to move at the weight I am now.”

Austin has other traits that made it easy for Trojans assistant coaches James Cregg and Mike Summers to extend an offer at the Rising Stars Camp despite the fact that he was only there as a spectator. For one, Claremont coach Mike Collins has never come across a nicer player in his 20 years at the school.

“I just love him as a person,” Collins said. “He’s got a great heart. He’s a great Christian. He cares for people, even though he’s big and a Division I kid. He’s very nice to everyone and a real good leader. And for him to have a 4.4 GPA is even crazier.”

The studious tackle weighed many options before verbally committing to the Trojans -- including a spot at Harvard -- but there was something tugging at his heart.

“It was definitely sitting in the back of my mind, even before the USC offer,” Austin said. “Coming from an underprivileged family with money always tight, it’s hard to walk away from a possible Harvard degree. I had family members telling me to go to Harvard but, to be honest, that wasn’t my dream. It’s not my dream to sit behind a desk and sign papers. My dream is to play football. You’re always taking a risk of getting injured that way, but I’m 100 percent behind my decision.”

Perhaps most promising for USC is that Austin is by no means a finished product. He has much more to learn, more weight to pack on and a solid foundation to build off of. This upcoming season will only be his fourth ever.

There are aspects of his game Austin prides himself in (footwork and quickness) and others he wants to improve (pass protection). As an early enrollee candidate, Austin is less than five months from arriving on campus and working towards his dream.

“I know what the USC coaches are going to make me into if I work hard and keep a level head,” Austin said. “That's the way I see it. I know they’re going to mold me into a great product."