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March 30, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: Austin’s draft stock is rising

MORGANTOWN — It would not be surprising if West Virginia University’s scintillating slot receiver and kick returner Tavon Austin has risen to the level of being a first-round pick in next month’s NFL draft and, to be honest, if he were to go ahead of quarterback Geno Smith that would not be a heart-stopping shock.

What he did at the NFL Combine and at his Pro Day were dazzling, and one can only imagine that he’s done the same in his individual workouts for teams. What’s more, his off-the-field demeanor and history of having avoided any trouble while being a leader work only for him.

On a recent podcast ESPN’s top draft experts, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, stated his case in the highest terms.

“Tavon Austin is a flat-out stud. I know he’s small ... but man is he a player. I watched him in the Pro Day. He barely broke a sweat,” McShay said.

“What you worry about in terms of him being small and holding up and durability, you get that concern eased a little bit when you watch the way he works and you hear guys around him talk about his work ethic and his toughness and his background and what he’s been through. The fact that he’s coachable.”

These are things that add immeasurable value to him as a draft choice.

Kiper’s comments may have done even more to endear him to the NFL talent judges.

“He’s a we and us guy. He’s not me and I. He’s not about flash. He’s not about highlight films and worrying about ‘hey talk about me,’ ‘look at this great thing I did,’ ‘watch this great move in the open field’. He’s serious. He’s one of those guys who’s got that ... game face.

“Wherever he’s been, high school, college and now the NFL, he has been spectacular. In this day and age of the NFL ... he is built for what the NFL is right now,” Kiper concluded.

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