It wasn’t long after the draft that Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr. knew where he’d end up. He and his agent worked diligently to figure out the best spot, with Austin ultimately leaving it up to the latter to find the best spot, Jacksonville.
No, it wasn’t easy for the former Notre Dame receiver to see 262 names that weren’t his cross the ticker on the bottom of the television, but that’s ultimately what happened after his name wasn’t called and his phone didn’t ring during the three-day extravaganza.
Still, Austin has gotten over the fact that he wasn’t selected, knowing that he has a chance to compete for a spot on a roster that is in need of talent at the receiver position.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Austin explained during the team’s rookie minicamp last month. “I’m a God-man, so I realized that God has ... he does things for a reason. So I have no quarrels about anything about not being drafted. I have a chance to compete to be on the team right now, so that’s all I can ask for”
Austin, listed at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, spent four years with the Fighting Irish, but only would play a significant role with the team for one year, his senior season. Austin was suspended for the entirety of the 2019 season, while he suffered a broken foot during the 2020 campaign, playing in only one year.
During his final season with the program, he was able to catch 48 passes for 888 yards and seven touchdowns, showcasing his deep-threat ability by way of 18.5 yards per reception.
Participating in the NFL Combine in February, Austin performed remarkably, posting some of the best numbers within his position group on the day. Austin would post a 4.43 40-yard dash, a 39-inch verticle jump, 132-inch broad jump and a 6.71 3-cone drill, showing off his speed, explosion and agility.
Still, he ended up in Jacksonville after being signed to a three-year deal that reportedly included $230,000 in total guarantees and a $25,000 signing bonus, one of the highest-paid UDFA players this year. The situation in Jacksonville made sense, Austin indicated.
“Just due to the fact that there’s a lot of opportunity for me to improve as a player and the coaching staff and, you know, the quarterback (Trevor Lawrence). There’s a lot of great people and pieces around here and I just want to be a part of that.”
Austin is already familiar with Lawrence, the Jaguars’ starting QB, having played with him at The Opening in 2017 as rising high school seniors. Austin was a primary connection with Lawrence during the event.
Austin’s path to the NFL hasn’t been an easy one thus far. As mentioned previously, the rookie receiver missed nearly two full seasons due to injuries and a suspension.
In 2020, Austin broke his foot twice, once just prior to the season, forcing him to miss the first couple of games of the year, and then four games into the year Austin would break it again - that, he says was harder to overcome than his suspended season in 2019.
“I physically knew that if I wasn’t injured, I would be able to compete at a very high level,” Austin said. “So after that second time I broke it, I was really just kind of distraught. But at the end of the day, I had teammates and coaches guys there that really just helped keep me positive and to keep me motivated.”
Austin acknowledged his past transgressions, too. Not wanting to get into the specifics of what led to his suspension, he did say during his freshman and sophomore seasons he simply wasn’t mature.
“You know, my freshman and sophomore year, I was really immature just going to college, not really understanding a lot, you know, just kind of being thrown to the college life,” Austin admitted, indicating that the past couple of years, he grew during his time at Notre Dame, graduating in just three-and-a-half years.
“And then just growing throughout Notre Dame and just people there and the coaches really helped me to become more mature. And I feel like that’s gonna translate to here really well, just on the field and off the field.”
Now, Austin is ready to take that challenge and run with it, with the Jaguars. During rookie minicamp last month, Austin was seen running through drills smoothly, able to showcase his talents. He believes that having veteran players such as Christian Kirk, Marvin Jones Jr., and more, will help his development.
“Some of the older guys here, it kind of helped me throughout alignments and different routes to run and how to look for different looks. So having them and then the coaches you know, implementing that, having their own input really helps.”
Though the Jaguars paid a couple of receivers during free agency in Kirk and Zay Jones, the team didn’t invest in the position during the NFL Draft, giving Austin a good opportunity to come in and earn a spot.
“He was always a guy, a talented player obviously as receiver, and [we’re] just excited really to have gotten him in here and to really go to work with him,” Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson said just before rookie minicamp in May.
Moving forward, Austin simply wants to learn from the receivers that are already in Jacksonville in order to add to his own game.
“Just work every day. You know, that’s the mentality coming in every single day, putting in work off the field, on the field, wherever it takes.”
Perhaps sooner rather than later, Jaguars fans will get an opportunity to see Austin's skills to the test against his teammates and other players around the league. He feels he brings plenty to the table.
“I would say my playmaking ability, deep-threat [ability]. I feel like I’m a deep threat receiver. I have speed offsides to go up and catch the ball.”