Notre Dame receiver Kevin Austin Jr. goes undrafted, signs with Jaguars

Greg McKenna
ND Insider
Notre Dame’s Kevin Austin Jr. (4) scores a touchdown during the 2022 Playstation Fiesta Bowl Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Kevin Austin Jr.'s Notre Dame career developed slowly.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are banking on a different narrative after signing the late-blooming talent on Saturday evening as an undrafted free agent, according to his representatives.  

Austin was hoping to give Notre Dame a wide receiver draftee for the fourth straight year, joining seventh-rounder Ben Skowronek (2021), second-rounder Chase Claypool (2020) and third-rounder Miles Boykin (2019). 

In the previous 12 drafts from 2007-2018, just four total Irish receivers were picked: first-rounders Will Fuller (2016) and Michael Floyd (2012), second-rounder Golden Tate (2010) and sixth-rounder TJ Jones (2014). 

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Concentration was a problem for Austin early in 2021, when he had four drops through the first seven games. That included two drops against Purdue, when he held without a catch despite eight targets.

Austin, however, wouldn’t drop another pass until the Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State, when he was targeted a season-high 12 times. 

Austin had three 100-yard receiving games in his college career, and all of them came over his final five outings. 

After seeing limited action as a freshman, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound wide receiver from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., missed his entire sophomore year because of off-the-field issues and most of the 2020 season after fracturing his left foot.

The former four-star recruit finally translated hype into production last season, leading the Irish with 888 receiving yards (18.5 per catch) and tying tight end Michael Mayer with a team-high seven touchdowns. His 48 receptions were second on Notre Dame only to Mayer. 

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Austin turned heads in March at the NFL Combine. He finished second among wide receivers in both the 3-cone and 20-yard shuffle drills and was also top 5 at the position in both the vertical and broad jumps. Most importantly, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds, 14th-fastest out of 32 participating receivers.

A total of 28 wide receivers were drafted this year. Austin, who left two years of eligibility on the table, was not among them. 

Golden Notre Dame Moment 

Austin caught multiple touchdown passes just once in his career — in September's blowout win over Wisconsin at Chicago's Soldier Field.

After an inconsistent start to the season, he hit his stride in the second half last fall.

Notre Dame’s Kyren Williams (23) and Kevin Austin Jr. (4) celebrate scoring during the Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin NCAA football game Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 at Soldier Field in Chicago.

 After posting a career-high 139 yards, 70 of which came on a touchdown grab, against Navy in November, he also led the Irish with 125 yards in the regular-season finale at Stanford. 

What they’re saying 

“He eliminated most of the drops and became much more consistent, the kind of go-to guy (in 2021). Throw it up and he went and got it. He was able to ‘high point.’ He's certainly got the ability to beat you down the field vertically.” — Mel Kiper Jr. on Austin at ESPN media call in March 

Notre Dame’s Kevin Austin Jr. (4) tries to get away from Stanford's Ethan Bonner (13) during the Notre Dame vs. Stanford NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif.

“I always tried to emulate my game after (free agent and seven-time Pro Bowler) Julio Jones because he’s such a great physically fast freak of a football player. Recently, I’ve been watching guys like Davante Adams (Las Vegas Raiders), Justin Jefferson (Minnesota Vikings), guys that are really great route runners to try to perfect my craft.” — Austin at Notre Dame’s Pro Day 

Five Things to Know about Kevin Austin

1 — Austin amassed 1,151 total yards and 13 total touchdowns during his senior year at North Broward Prep in South Florida.  

2 — He made his first career college catch in a 22-17 win over Vanderbilt in September 2018. 

3 — He caught his first career touchdown in the 2021 season opener at Florida State, which the Irish won 41-38 in overtime. 

4 — Against Virginia Tech, Austin hauled in a desperation toss by a scrambling Jack Coan for a two-point conversion that tied the game at 29 late in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame went on to win 32-29.  

5 — Austin largely stayed on campus to prepare for the draft, taking advantage of resources like strength coach Matt Balis. 

 

Notre Dame’s Kevin Austin Jr. (4) turns up field as Navy's Jamal Glenn (16) defends him during the Notre Dame vs. Navy NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.