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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Who? He’ll tell you

    Ryan Caseyassistant sports editor
    Ryan Casey
    assistant sports editor

    He’s not too difficult to pick out on the practice field; just look for the guy whose practice jersey has become so faded over the years that it more closely resembles pink than its intended red.

    Try to find the one tutoring anyone and everyone who will listen, the one who used to be a member of the scout team as a walk-on, the one whose claim to fame on campus came at a time when his sport wasn’t even in season.

    Yes, Adam Austin is the guy who took more than 1,500 snaps two springs ago as his team’s only quarterback, yet he remains a relative unknown, because – outside of his five pass attempts against Utah in the 2005 season opener, a glimpse of action against Oregon that year and some mop-up duty against Texas-El Paso in 2003 -the redshirt senior really hasn’t seen the field.

    So what’s the first thing Austin wants everyone to know?

    “”What’s the first thing?”” he asks, repeating the question as the gears turn in his head.

    Finally, he decides his answer, but it comes with a disclaimer: “”It’s a long story,”” he says, “”a real long story.

    “”Growing up, my family kind of struggled a little bit,”” he begins. “”I grew up with just my mom until I was 10 years old, lived in a real small house in Illinois.

    “”Just growing up, and always being alone,”” he continues, “”I think that gave me some responsibility, and I think that helped me become an independent person and really take care of what I need to do.””

    That independent person eventually enrolled at Mundelein High School in – you guessed it – Mundelein, Ill., where football was just “”something everyone went out and played,”” he says.

    “”It really wasn’t something – I mean the coaches took it serious,”” he says, “”but the players never really did.””

    So Austin and a group of fellow seniors set out to fix that in his final season by starting the school’s first year-round strength and conditioning program.

    “”We got the whole team together,”” he recalls, “”and my senior season, we won three games, but that was the first time we won three games in like five years.””

    The year after Austin graduated – he still holds school records for passing yards in a season (1,591) and a game (338), as well as the longest touchdown pass (92 yards) – the program went to the playoffs for the first time in school history.

    So in a sense, Adam Austin’s been here before; his first few years as a member of the Arizona football team under former head coach John Mackovic seem all too familiar.

    “”I’ve been in programs where it’s been (in need of rebuilding), and then have gotten out of it,”” he says. “”So I know a lot of it, what it’s like, and what it takes to get through it.””

    Even last spring’s endless reps were a reminder of high school.

    “”I didn’t have a backup in high school,”” he says with a grin. “”So I was having fun, you know.””

    But even with all those reps and a solid performance in that year’s Spring Game – he threw for 370 yards on 27-of-50 passing with two touchdowns – doubts about his abilities remain in the minds of many fans around campus.

    “”I’ve been here for five years, and I’ve studied film for-“” he says as he pauses and another smile emerges, “”-an uncountable amount of hours. I know the offense as well as anybody else out there, and I know how to read a defense.””

    Austin’s position coach, Mike Canales, who also serves as the team’s offensive coordinator, says he wouldn’t change a thing in his offensive game plan if he looked up and saw No. 14 on the field instead of No. 7.

    “”I think we would continue what we’re doing,”” he says. “”Adam has a great understanding of what we’re trying to do, and he’s very capable of handling the offense – and he’s probably a bit more mobile than (starter) Willie (Tuitama). There are things we would add to his package that we probably wouldn’t do with Willie.””

    Though Austin knows the position is firmly in his good friend Tuitama’s grasp – Austin took the sophomore under his wing a year ago, and the two now room together – he refuses to play the “”just glad to be here”” card.

    “”This is my last year,”” he says. “”I definitely want to get in, just to see what I can do, show everyone what I can do.””

    But don’t get him wrong, he is glad, even thankful, to be where he is now after the path he took to get here, walking on under Mackovic after his childhood and high school years in Mundelein.

    “”I just went about it every day, just doing everything the coaches told me to do,”” he says. “”I guess that’s just been my mentality throughout every year that I’ve been here. It was tough financially to get through and have enough food to eat every day – and get through practice,”” he admits. “”But football’s something I love to do, so I couldn’t complain at all.””

    Ryan Casey is a journalism senior. He can be reached at

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