It’s not hard for rookie WR Calvin Austin III to associate himself as the underdog.
First, his size kept him from getting attention from college programs as a high school recruit. He was reportedly running in the 4.4s as a ninth-grader and showed out in one-on-one sessions against DBs at recruit camps, but still was overlooked by coaches due to his lack of ideal size they were looking for.
Austin resorted to taking a track scholarship when he enrolled at Memphis, joining the football team as a walk-on. He proceeded to see action in just four games as a redshirt freshman in 2018, catching two passes for 24 yards, but took his only carry for 83 yards to the house for a score. Austin managed to earn a scholarship as a sophomore in 2019 and had 17 receptions for 315 yards and three TDs along with four carries for three yards and a score.
Austin continued to work at honing his craft and put together two impressive seasons in 2020 and 2021 where he tallied 137 receptions for 2,202 yards and 19 TDs through the air, three carries for 83 yards and a TD on the ground, and 25 punt returns for 323 yards and two scores.
When reflecting on his time at Memphis, Austin relates his resiliency of rising through the ranks as a zero-star recruit coming out of high school and an undersized WR prospect during the pre-draft process to what it means to be a part of the Tiger program.
“I am truly Memphis. I’ve got grit, and you have to have grit and you’ve got to grind,” said Austin via Teresa Varley on the team’s website. “That’s truly what it means. Memphis is a place where kids can get caught up in stuff. We have a different type of grind and work ethic. You’ve got to really work hard if you want it to last. Being a Memphis kid is when you are faced with adversity, you’re not going to back down. You’re going to see it, look at it straight in the face and you’re not going to back out of anything.”
Austin truly emulates his response here with the journey he has been on even before he became a Memphis Tiger. His former head coach, Ryan Silverfield, can speak to Austin’s dedication to the grind and response to adverse circumstances. He spoke earlier this offseason on the team website, calling him a “Memphis kid” and a guy that came into college 149 lbs. soaking wet and physically made himself into an NFL-caliber WR because of his unwavering work ethic.
As you can see from Austin’s comments above and Silverfield’s reference to Austin being a Memphis kid, it’s evident that Memphis relates to being a hard-working football program that expects its players to buy into the process and put forth the effort to become the best they can be, regardless of the cards they’ve been dealt.
In Austin’s eyes, this upbringing and culture he adopted Memphis makes the Pittsburgh Steelers a match made in heaven.
“That’s why I think being a Steeler is a perfect match because that’s what they’re about, hard-nosed, tough football players and football team,” Austin said. “That’s why I think this organization is a perfect fit for me.”