When he steps onto the football field, Kevin Austin has a mindset of dominance.
“If you are the best player on the field, and you put that in your mind, you will play like it,” Austin said. “Every time I go into a game I say ‘I’m the best athlete on the field and no one will stop me’.”
Austin’s athletic ability on the field has garnered national attention, and has ranked him amongst the top 200 high school football recruits in the nation according to 247sports.com.
The 6’3” wide receiver brought in over 1400 total yards last year as a junior in high school, and became one of just 12 players in Miami to earn an invitation to Nike’s prestigious “The Opening” camp.
The camp, which invites the top high school football recruits in the nation to compete in a combine on national television, showcased less than 200 athletes last year despite hosting thousands of players for tryouts. Austin impressed Nike coaches, who selected him on Sunday, February 26th, after a stellar tryout.
Although Austin made an immediate impression on the coaches, however, his journey onto the gridiron was not as simple as their decision to select him.
When Austin was in grade school his first love was the sport of soccer, and from a young age his athletic ability stood above the rest. Austin says the big difference he noticed immediately was his speed, and that he used to run past everybody with the ball.
After dominating on the soccer field at a young age, Austin moved onto the football field, and began to play at the youth level.
“My parents decided to put me in flag football,” Austin said. “And my flag football coach, he coached for a tackle football team, so he wanted me to tryout there. I then left a year early from flag football and went to play tackle.”
From the moment Austin strapped on pads, he felt comfortable in the game.
“The first time I got the ball I ran over a kid that was bigger than me,” Austin said. “Just the drive to run through him was just a moment when I realized, ‘I could do this’.”
After running over that defender in the youth football ranks, the receiver never looked back. Austin transferred to North Broward Preparatory High School as a sophomore, and immediately began to make an impact both on and off the field.
“He’s a four star athletically but his overall character is a six star,” North Broward Prep. head coach Rex Nottage said. “He does all the right things, he goes where he is supposed to go, he listens to all the film sessions, and he was immediately impactful when he came here his sophomore year. As a leader, we asked him to be an example and set the tone for everyone else.”
Once Austin entered his sophomore year he led by example, and used an attitude his coach praised as humbling, to put up nearly 1000 total yards and 13 touchdowns.
Austin quickly became one of the most recognizable names in South Florida after his sophomore season, but his work ethic never changed.
Nottage says that when the game is hanging in the balance Austin wants the ball, and will never forget one play that embodied his athletic ability.
“We were playing in double overtime against Calvary Christian High School in the [playoff] semifinals,” Nottage said. “We specifically said the game is on the line, we know who we got to get the ball to. We threw a slant [route], it went right to the defenders hand, but sure enough, Kevin came down with it and gave us the winning touchdown to help us advance to the finals this year. So we know when the game is on the line that is the guy we need to go to.”
North Broward Prep. lost in the finals to rival Archbishop McCarthy High School, but Austin was forced to shift his mindset towards “The Opening”, with tryouts two months away.
“Since I was in 6th or 7th grade [that’s been my goal],” Austin said. “Since I was watching “The Opening” on TV in the summer time and seeing all those great athletes and big names perform against the top athletes in the country, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.”
When Austin entered the Miami Dolphins practice facility for his tryout, the stakes were high, but his mindset never shifted.
Austin began to draw back on the confidence he developed while scoring touchdowns at North Broward Prep., and knew he had to believe he was the best athlete on the field to accomplish his ultimate goal of receiving an invitation to the camp.
Austin matched up against multiple highly ranked defenders over the course of the day, and brought his on-field mentality to life.
“I had to work pretty hard, I had to compete like I always do,” Austin said. “It didn’t matter who the name was or anything like that, it was just me and that person. So basically I just wasn’t gonna let them stop me.”
Austin used his physicality to his advantage throughout the day, and his size proved to be a determining factor in separating himself from the competition; something he has built upon since high school.
“My coaches always told me that being fast and all these things is great,” Austin said. “But transitioning from little league football, to this level, is a big jump, and I’m gonna have to change that by getting into the weight room and getting bigger and getting tougher.”
Austin went from bench pressing 160 pounds as a freshman to around 225 pounds as a junior, and after an 8 hour tryout, Austin received his invitation.
Although this was the moment he had looked forward to for years, all he could think about was the journey.
“I always think back,” Austin said. “I always think back to when I played soccer, when I played flag, when I played little league, tackle my first couple years, and things like that. Just thinking back to how much I’ve accomplished, how much I’ve grown and matured, throughout the process. I’m blessed.”
Austin says he is excited to go to Oregon this summer to participate in the camp, but knows that he must continue working in order to stay successful.
“I always think that having that name and getting all that recognition is great, but I always think to myself, ‘this is making me more humble’,” Austin said. “This is making me work harder because there’s more things to improve. Having my name out there means I’m doing something right, so I can just get better and better, so basically I push harder and work harder and stay humble.”