My Journey

By Calvin Austin III

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

Playing for Memphis is a dream come true. I know that sounds like a cliché, but for me, it’s genuine.

I was born and raised in Memphis, and as early as I can remember, my dream was to put on that Memphis blue and represent the Tigers. My father went to college here as well, so not only is it my hometown, but I’m a legacy student.

There was no decision-day drama for me—it was Memphis from the jump.

Staying on track

Today, most people associate me with football, but what you may not know is that I actually came to Memphis as a two-sport athlete. Frankly, it was one of my stipulations, and it was non-negotiable.

Wherever I went, I had to play football and run track.

I know it was a somewhat odd request, but I absolutely love track and would be nowhere near the same football player I am today if it wasn’t for my experiences with the sport.

Track helps you so much with your speed, pace, and control of your different gears. On top of that, the sport gave me a ton of confidence. Regardless of who I’m lining up against, I’m convinced I’m the better runner, you know?

While I put my track career on pause last year, I wouldn’t change one thing if I could do it all over. Honestly, I’d even encourage some of the younger football players out there to think about picking up track. I gained so much from it, and I truly believe it can give you a competitive advantage.

Growing pains

They say there are two tragedies in life—not getting what you want and getting it.

I came to Memphis as a walk-on, focused on getting what I wanted. It wasn’t easy, and nothing was handed to me. I had to earn it day in and day out. I still remember the horrors of my first Skill and Drill practice.

It was the summer of my freshman year, and I was so excited and ready to prove myself. I went out there with nerves and couldn’t catch the ball. I dropped my first pass and heard the upperclassman challenging me. Then, I dropped it again! Now, everyone started making noise.

“Come on, man!”

I could hear people snickering, making comments, and suddenly, I felt pressure. Never in my life had I worried about catching a football. I’m a wide receiver! This is what I do!

So, I got another throw and dropped the ball again for the third time.

“Forget it, man!”

They gave up on me and moved on to another drill without me successfully catching the ball.

That was my first Skill and Drill practice at the D1 level.

It was a humbling experience. It was a reality check letting me know that I had a lot more work to do on the field. I thought my high school game would more or less translate to college, but that was not the case! I needed to work harder to play at this level.

Thankfully, I had wonderful coaches who were able to help me work on my game. Whether that was the technical aspect, work in the weight room, or the film room—the coaching staff was there with me every step of the way.

Track helps you so much with your speed, pace, and control of your different gears. On top of that, the sport gave me a ton of confidence. Regardless of who I'm lining up against, I'm convinced I'm the better runner, you know?

The mental game

When people think of football, they primarily think of the physical aspect. And no doubt, football is a darn physical sport.

But what really took my game to the next level was the mental aspect. My lack of focus is what caused me to drop those balls as a freshman. I knew how to catch the football, but could I do it in a high-pressure situation at the D1 level? The answer that day was no, and that was more a mental challenge than a physical one.

Focusing on the little details of the game is something I didn’t do until I came to Memphis.

I never really thought about those things. I just lined up, ran my routes, and went for the ball. Here, I learned more about getting separation with my feet and how to use my hips and shoulders to gain an advantage. I’ve watched probably thousands of hours of tape of myself and my opponents. What my tendencies are, what their weaknesses are, and what I can do to gain any advantage over my competition.

Now, I’m making pre-snap reads, and I know where the weaknesses are in the defense. I’ve studied the film and know they like to run play X on third down, and they tend to always use player Y in this defensive package.

Having this knowledge and continuing to be a student of the game increased my love of the game. I learned that the more I put into football, the more I get out of it.

It just created this cycle of hunger and consumption of knowledge that took me to the top of my game.

Unfinished business

It’s no secret I have dreams of playing in the NFL. I feel like I have what it takes.

But my time here at Memphis is far from over. Actually, it’ll never be over.

I’m a Memphis kid wherever I go and will always represent the Tigers.

We have a great team this year, and I’m sure if we maximize our potential, we’ll be one of the top teams in the country when it’s all said and done.

That’s what drives me.

Taking Memphis to that next level and playing in a big bowl game this winter.

Memphis, let’s do this!