Notre Dame has what matters to four-star WR Kevin Austin
BEAVERTON, Ore. – The connections to Kevin Austin’s top schools are fairly easy to see.
The four-star wide receiver from South Florida knows plenty of players and recruits at Miami. Even the folks running The Opening Finals just so happened to place him on a 7-on-7 team that features seven Miami commits.
Austin’s ties to Tennessee run through wide receivers coach Kevin Beard, who has been recruiting Austin since he was a freshman in high school during previous coaching stops at Miami and Florida International.
Duke, much like Miami, has established connections to Austin through players on the roster and recruits committed to the Blue Devils.
Notre Dame, perhaps the most unlikely of Austin’s top four schools, has had the most work to do. Even Austin himself admits that he wasn’t really considering the Irish as an option until they offered last August. Almost a year later, Notre Dame has put itself in a position to land Austin’s commitment.
“(They have been) reaching out to me, talking to me,” Austin said, “asking me questions how I would fit in with their school and how I would fit in with their guidelines that they want on their team, the characters that they want on their team. Understanding and learning from what the coaches have been telling me is really what I've been focusing on."
Austin established a comfort level with the Irish when he visited for the Blue-Gold Game in April.
“It was really great,” Austin said. “I talked to a lot of the guys that were there that were committed or talking. (Four-star wide receiver) Chase Cota was there with me. He's not committed anywhere yet. We were just talking about how great of a school it is and how a lot of the guys there are really real and they talk to you."
The Notre Dame coaching staff has made the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Austin feel like he's a priority. When Notre Dame lost a commitment from Braden Lenzy, wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander reached out to Austin to let him know that would lead to more offers at the position.
“He was telling me that of course I'm still their No. 1 option and they really want me,” Austin said.
But that wasn’t a message that held a lot of weight with Austin.
“They could be telling anyone else that,” he said. “I'm just staying on my path and what I want in life."
The numbers that interest Austin more are Notre Dame’s graduation rate, the football team’s GPA and anything related to potential career paths in kinesiology, engineering or business.
“That's going to set me up for the next 40 years of my life not just the next four,” Austin said.
Clearly that part of the Notre Dame recruiting pitch has struck a chord.
Balancing the responsibilities of being a student and an athlete has long been important to Austin. There are plenty of football powerhouses to choose from in South Florida, but his high school, Coconut Creek (Fla.) North Broward Prep, has a strong academic reputation and a shorter list of NFL alumni.
Notre Dame, led by running backs coach Autry Denson, offensive coordinator Chip Long and Alexander, has demonstrated an understanding of what’s important to Austin.
“They're really respectful of my time and what I do,” Austin said. “I go to a prep school so I have a lot of work to do during the week. They're really respectful of my time and fitting around my schedule."
The focus on academics hasn’t held Austin back physically. He looks more like a developed college athlete than a soon-to-be high school senior. He credits John Garrish, the director of athletic development and performance at North Broward Prep, for turning great genetics into a polished product.
Austin caught 41 passes for 1,021 yards and 13 touchdowns in his junior season. He also rushed for 454 yards and six touchdowns, scored on three two-point conversions and returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
The production has pushed Rivals to rank Austin as the No. 28 wide receiver in the 2018 class. 247Sports slates him No. 49 at the position.
As Long has installed his offense at Notre Dame, he’s opened Austin’s eyes to the possibility of being a playmaker for the Irish.
"He's starting to give the wide receivers more opportunities to go deep, go get touchdowns and go make plays after the catch,” Austin said.
Notre Dame should know soon if Austin wants to do just that in South Bend. He plans to announce his commitment before his senior season.
An exact date isn’t known. He doesn’t want to hold a press conference with hats on a table. A tweet or video will likely signal Austin’s decision.
Then any doubt about which connection means the most to him will be made clear.