The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

December 19, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: Tragedy helps fuel Austin’s drive

MORGANTOWN — It started with a few tweets from Tavon Austin.

“Today I lost my homeboy!!!!! Los you in a better place!!!! Love u shorty. I remember when u was at my game you told me to never look back!!!”

A friend had died.

Not my business, really. Not then. Not anyone’s, but the following tweets let you know that this was one of Tavon Austin’s really close friends.

“Los u still living In me!!!!!” read one.

“This night for u Los!!!” read another.

Then came a telling one.

“I guess it true when they say ‘when it rains it pours!!!’ Two homeboys in two months smh (shaking my head),” he tweeted.

That was Dec. 8.

Two days later, Dec. 10, came another tweet.

“Another homeboy smh Booda boo we miss you shorty!!!! It’s crazy solemnity said the only way out of Baltimore is death !!! Love u.”

This was almost too much to fathom, but again it’s his business, personal business from the hood. Tavon Austin, who may just be the best college football player alive today, was being torn apart from the inside, knowing he was alive.

Then came Dec. 14. Newtown, Conn. Twenty grammar school children, just beginning their lives, and six teachers and administrators in that school were slain in an avalanche of bullets, a simple, cold, meaningless execution by what has to have been a madman.

In the wake of what had happened, it was time to ask Tavon Austin about his feelings about life and death and the world in which we live.

It was a football interview session, but football was the furthest thing from my mind as I slid in next to Austin.

“I saw you lost a friend on Twitter,” I said, opening the door to the conversation, knowing it had been two.

I wasn’t ready for the reply I got.

“I had lost three friends in a matter of four weeks,” he said.

“Three? How did they die?” I asked.

“Just living on the streets of Baltimore and they got shot,” he said.

It was almost matter-of-factly the way he said it.

He knew he was the lucky one, that he had escaped those streets, had gotten to Morgantown because he had an amazing talent and a dream.

“Baltimore is a rough place. I’m not saying other states don’t have rough places, but I was one of the blessed ones who had good grades and God blessed me with talent, so I’m definitely not going to put it to waste. I’m going to keep on pushing it,” he said.

You may expect it on the streets of Baltimore, but as a 6-year-old sitting in a classroom in a rural setting in Connecticut?

“Those little kids, they had a whole life to live,” Austin replied. “It’s sad how people come in and take someone’s life right there based on something that happened at home. That’s crazy. I feel for them personally. If there was anything I could [do] I definitely would help.”

You know he means it. How much can you take? He lost Artie, Loso and Budda Boo. All those parents and brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles had lost loved ones, innocent loved ones whose lives had not yet really begun.

You could tell how much it all meant to him by his follow-up tweets after learning of his friends’ deaths.

Then came the capper, this from the mind of a kid who is standing on the doorstep to fame and fortune in the National Football League.

“It’s a dirty dirty world that we live in!!!!”

He had somehow been allowed to follow that different path to glory.

“I always had older cousins who played football, and they were this close to making it. I wanted to be that person to make it. I feel so far I’m doing good, and I guess I’m the one that made it,” he said.

But he knows he left the others behind and he wants to help, to do something to contribute to cleaning up that “dirty dirty world we live in.”

“It’s definitely sad. It kind of strikes my heart and you feel a certain weight. I feel like I should be able to do more to help my homeboys out and put them in a different situation, but it’s hard. I’m not there right now,” he said.

“For the rest of my life they are definitely going to be with me. For the rest of my life I am going to keep on grinding, keep on pushing for them. Then, hopefully, if I get blessed and go to the NFL, I definitely will try to help out my community,” he said.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • Huggins signs junior college guard

    Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
    Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.

    April 17, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

  • WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI

    There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.

    April 15, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- Most plays good, some not so good in Gold-Blue scrimmage

    There appeared to be a fine mixture of plays, most good with some not so good, in last Saturday’s West Virginia University’s Gold-Blue football scrimmage.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Garrison still proving he can carry the ball

    The running back raves from the West Virginia coaching this spring have been directly mostly toward Wendell Smallwood, and rest assured he earned every one of them with his versatility, but it was a reborn running back who well may have taken the biggest jump up the depth chart.

    April 14, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos