The Times West Virginian

Sports

June 19, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN- Bailey, Austin turning heads in St. Louis

MORGANTOWN — This will not surprise you if you’ve been in this neck of the woods the past three years, but it sure got those good folks in St. Louis fired up.

Seems they are beginning to realize the special talents St. Louis Rams first-round draft pick Tavon Austin showed Mountaineer fans as he caught passes, ran reverses and, most of all, ran back kicks.

A week or so ago, and ESPN’s Mike Sando swears this is the way it went down, Austin grabbed a punt on the right sideline and broke into the clear.

All that stood between him and the goal line was punter Johnny Hekker, a real mismatch considering linebackers have troubles tackling Austin in the open field.

Austin put on a shake, then a back and was gone, leaving Hekker so thoroughly embarrassed at his dismal effort that he fell to the ground, clutching at his hamstring as if he had pulled it in an effort to get some sympathy from some unsympathetic but highly amused teammates.

“Come on, that is hilarious,” Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan said later. “(Austin) is the real deal, man.”

oooooo

Austin and his WVU teammate Stedman Bailey, drafted in the third round, have become a hot ticket duo in St. Louis, each creating a tremendous impression.

Early on, Torry Holt, the Rams’ great receiver who Bailey reached out to for guidance even before the draft, expressed his views on what these two can do.

Now Holt’s partner in the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” Isaac Bruce has put his stamp of approval on what he’s seen.

“I had to go to the highlight reel,” Bruce said when asked about the two. “Austin, he’s electrifying. I mean, you look at this guy, he can stop on a dime and leave you two nickels. He can get vertical and then run away from you. That’s a rarity in the league.”

And Bailey?

“Initially what I saw was his route running ability. He has the potential to be special. I wouldn’t be surprised to see his early success in this league.”

That’s a huge compliment coming from one of the best pure route runners in the NFL when he played.

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