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Calvin Austin III’s Kept Notes On His Doubters Since 9th Grade: ‘That’s Kind Of My Motivation’

There is such a thing as ‘prototypical size’ when it comes to football and the sort of physical attributes that you look for in a player that best predict that player having success at the highest level. Being 5’8” and 160 pounds at wide receiver comes up a bit short of that prototypical size.

But fortunately for players like Calvin Austin III, there is ample historical evidence proving that you don’t have to be some physical ideal to excel, which is why the Pittsburgh Steelers were willing to draft him in the fourth round last month, even though he had always been penalized for his size throughout his football journey.

Most definitely. Even when I would talk to coaches, I would go to camps and have great showings and stuff, I’ll run a fast 40, but they’ll always be like, ‘Your size’, and ‘You’ve got to get bigger’”, he told reporters during rookie minicamp last week when he was asked about if his lack of recruiting offers was due to his stature. “That’s why I wrote down in my phone, in my notes—and I keep it—of all the things that people, or coaches, have said to me in the past about that. That’s kind of my motivation”.

I gather it would be pretty easy to draw motivation from something like that, when you’re repeatedly told that you’re not big enough to do something that you have your heart set on doing. That’s not going to make you able to do things that you can’t do, but it does help provide the drive to allow you to get the most out of your abilities.

“Probably ninth grade when I went to my first camp”, Austin said, was the first time that he was told that he was too small for his aspirations. “I think I ran a high 4.4 in the ninth grade, and it was one of the fastest times. I performed well in the one-on-one portions, but the coaches would be like, ‘You’ve got to put on some more weight, get in a lifting program, or you won’t have the size to play at the next level’. And I still remember that”.

Now he’s an NFL wide receiver, drafted 138th overall, and there’s virtually no reasonable chance that he doesn’t at least make the 53-man roster. He obviously has a lot to prove, but he is now in an environment where everybody genuinely believes in his abilities and isn’t paying much mind to his height.

Of course, you’re not going to be a 5’8” wide receiver who weighs 160 pounds and not have that be a hindrance to you in some situations. He’s going to struggle to win off the line of scrimmage if a defender is able to get his hands on him. But he’s got the elusiveness to win more often than not without being touched.

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