By Brian Hoorn
MARYSVILLE, WA – We knew he’d be good and probably great but there was some debate how soon everyone else would know or even how soon they should know that Austin Joyner was for real.
The first time I sat down and actually watched him play was 2008 in Dallas Texas. Here was a transplanted Florida kid, barely out of elementary school now playing in Dallas, Texas for a Lake Stevens team at the Arena Youth Football National Championship. During that tournament his team won the Junior Championship and even beat a Senior team with high school freshman.
Austin the 5’10” 185lb RB/DB is the youngest of 3 brothers and is used to battling against older and bigger competition.
Alex, the brains of the operation, a soon to be senior at WSU, graduated with my daughter and is the level headed, academically driven brother he also played football.
As did Andrew the middle brother and with whom I have a unique bond. You see it was him who landed on my thigh which hyper-extended my leg leading to 13 screws a plate and a variety of ACL, MCL and meniscus fixes that reside in my left knee till this day. It goes beyond this though, you see I coached Andrew for a few years watching him grow and become a better player and young man. Andrew is the most gregarious kid willing to do anything for a laugh of which I have a few stories that are better left unsaid.
After battling his brothers and older competition for as long as he can remember it is no surprise that when he was “called up” for the final 3 games of his Freshman year Austin wasn’t shell shocked; rather he excelled and helped a 2-5 Tomahawk team end the season on a 3 game winning streak finishing at 5-5. He had a couple of hundred yards rushing, over a hundred yards receiving and a handful of td’s. Not too bad. Austin had enough playing time to get the experience but not enough to raise awareness of future opponents.
By any standard what Austin Joyner did this last year, his sophomore season was incredible, regardless of what year of high school. Austin ran for 2038 yards and 22 td’s all while averaging 13.9yds per carry and his team went to the State Quarterfinals for the first time since 1988. He was All League, All Area and named an All State 1st team RB.
There is one story from this last year that typifies the mental and physical makeup that accompanies his incredible ability. On the road in the state playoffs sharing a locker room entrance with the home team MP had to run the gauntlet before even stepping on the field. The home team exited first only to gather on either side of the entrance as MP came out to a sea of taunts, threats and high school bravado being hurled at them, largely being focused at MP’s sophomore #5. How did he respond you ask? On MP’s first offensive series Austin responded by having a run of 74 yards and finished the drive with an 11 yard td run. For the game he ran for 221 yards on 18 carries 2 td’s and a receiving td. On defense he caused a fumble when he flew up in run support and lit a kid up, exhibiting why he may be a better safety than RB.
Quite often we see players with the physical gifts but not the mental makeup or the mental makeup and not the skills. Rare it is to have someone with both. Not only that but to have the ability to elevate ones game in critical situations when the team needs it most, is an inherently unique and envied trait. There is an inner fire when the competition rises so does the level of his game. Not to say he doesn’t play hard against the weaker teams as pointed out by Carson “What impresses me about him is how hard he plays the game, he goes all out all of the time.”
All of that in one package is probably why before the end of his sophomore year in high school he has offers in hand from UW, WSU, OSU and Portland State, with a slew of teams waiting in the wings.
At this point it is safe to say that not only future opponents are aware of Austin’s ability but so is the Pac 12. After Austin ran for 266 yards a td and had an int to seal a 26 point 4th quarter and a 47-39 victory Oak Harbor coach Jay Turner was quoted saying Austin was the best back he had seen all season and the fact that he was only a sophomore was concerning. Coach Carson has been fielding phone calls from 10 of the 12 teams in the Pac-12 and his phone only expects to get busier over the next few years.
Personally I believe before it is all said and done we will be talking about an US Army All American type player. A recruit that will have everyone from Tom Lemming to ESPN and everyone in between putting him on lofty lists such as “ Top 150” or “Best out West” et.al. Essentially Austin is a national recruit that will have his pick of schools, coast to coast.
When describing his RB/DB Carson had this to say “From an ability standpoint he is very talented. He possesses great speed and power.” Austin seemed to echo his coach’s thoughts during our interview “If I need to run you over, I’ll run you over, if I need to run around you, I’ll run around you.” With a 4.48 40 and a 11.03 100 with a 275 bench, yeah speed and power. During the interview we tried to think of a time Austin ran out of bounds and we couldn’t remember one. His cutback ability at full speed is an amazing site.
“I don’t know, I’ve never been asked to describe myself.” This is how Austin responded during our interview when I asked him to describe himself as a football player. To tell you the truth I am at a bit of a loss as well, that is why I am resorting to a gray area I rarely go.
While I asked for a description and am now moving to the realm of comparison with doing so I must put this disclaimer out there that I absolutely hate comparisons of players because there aren’t two like players ever and besides doing such comparisons puts undue pressure and expectations on kids.
That’s why I hate myself for doing this and ask you to understand that I am not saying Austin will be or is exactly like this player but that there are certain similarities between the two. These comparisons are especially ridiculous when comparing a high school player to an all-time great, completely ridiculous I understand, I get it really I do but when I watch Austin run I am reminded of the great Gale Sayers. The way he cuts, how he cuts, his body position and balance as well as his decision making all appear very similar. A lofty comparison I understand but that right there is the another example of speed and power.
One question that continually comes up when coach’s call is what type of kid is Austin? We see the physical attributes and the film but what is he like as a teammate and a student. Carson explains his RB/DB this way “Austin is a great kid. He is a good student. He is polite and respectful. He is a fun person to be around.”
Besides the award winning smile he is a kid taking his core classes including AP Biology with a GPA hovering around 3.0 respectful to coaches, adults and teammates. All in all a great teammate that is inclusive as opposed to exclusive. Carson explains “For as much attention he’s getting as just a sophomore he has stayed very humble. I think that has a lot to do with the type of kid he is and guidance receives from his family.”
Austin’s father Arnold, a Florida State Seminole has helped Austin stay grounded and navigate the recruiting process as if a seasoned vet. Seeking information from key people in the process and investigating motivations of others who come knocking. Besides all the Austin has already been working on the practice SAT, taking core classes, registering with the NCAA Clearinghouse, taking 1on1 unofficial visits, looking at facilities and graduation rates of players and talking with coaches and asking them specific questions about their programs and academics.
Right: 2013 MP Tomahawks @ NWEFC Top From L to R Bryce Vitchovitch, Dante Fields, Corbin Ferry, Jake Luton, Deion Stell & Drew Hatch. Bottom L to R Hunter Trueax, Nic Alonso, Chris Jones & Austin Joynerhttp://www.northwestprepreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/NWEFC-980.jpghttp://www.northwestprepreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/NWEFC-980.jpg
Next year’s goals are lofty for Austin as he is eyeing 2500 yards, a mark that would break the old school record for a team that has run the football for 104 years. It will mean doing it with a new Oline and even with his running ability he may have a longer and more illustrious career as a DB.
This last year he didn’t start on the Defensive side of the ball until the third game of the season, not because ability but saving him for offense. His ability to fly in on run support are unmatched in my eyes in the high school game, best I have seen. He does need to work on coverage skills a bit but his speed, instincts and ball skills are top notch.
This Summer he has already been named an MVP at the NWEFC at Mercer Island, been to OU and OSU.
At this point I want you to remember we are still talking about a 15 year old sophomore who despite being used to playing against the big boys doesn’t even have his license yet. However with his family there to support him that doesn’t seem to matter.
For more on Austin click here
*Thanks to the Everett Herald for the pictures you see here and the coverage of Snohomish Counties High School teams*
– See more at: http://www.northwestprepreport.com/austin-joyner-rises-to-stardom-after-years-of-hard-work#sthash.3SkaS8Dr.dpuf