>>> TAVON AUSTIN TELECONFERENCE WITH ST. LOUIS MEDIA
West Virginia University wide receiver Tavon Austin was the No. 8 pick by the St. Louis Rams
in the first round of tonight’s NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
The Rams made a trade with the Buffalo Bills to move up from No. 16 to the eighth spot to get the player they coveted.
"If (Rams quarterback) Sam Bradford was watching his alma mater Oklahoma play West Virginia last year, believe me, he wants Tavon Austin because Austin had 580 yards of all-purpose yardage against Oklahoma," said ESPN NFL analyst Jon Gruden. "He is a devastating modern-day weapon to have. Kick it to him, hand it to him, tap it to him, throw it to him, just get this kid the ball; 4.3 is a legitimate time speed. I saw him do the short shuttle and I didn't even see it, he was so quick. That's how fast he is."
Austin said he had a feeling the Rams were really interested in him when he went to St. Louis to work out and then later when members of the organization returned to Morgantown to work him out again right before the draft.
"When I went there for my visit I definitely connected well with all of the coaches - Coach (Jeff) Fisher, the GM and everybody and when they came back to West Virginia to work out we hit it off there, too," said Austin. "Me and the coaches just clicked and I'm just thankful for the opportunity that they have given me."
What the Rams are getting is a versatile wide receiver that led all active NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision players with 288 career receptions and ranked second among those group of players with 3,413 receiving yards and 29 touchdown catches.
In 2012, Austin led the country with an average of 198 all-purpose yards per game and was one of just two active players to produce more than 6,000 career all-purpose yards (7,286) and average an impressive 13.77 yards per play for his career.
Austin was named the Big 12 Conference co-special teams player of the year and was the recipient of the Paul Hornung Award, presented to college football’s most versatile player. Austin just missed earning consensus All-America honors, securing first-team accolades from American Football Coaches Association, Associated Press, CBSSports.com, FoxSports.com, Pro Football Weekly, Phil Steele and SI.com, and second team honors Walter Camp, CBSSports.com and Phil Steele.
His 2012 stats included 114 receptions for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns as a receiver, 643 yards and three touchdowns as a ball carrier, 813 yards as a kick returner and 165 yards as a punt returner.
Austin’s stock jumped dramatically after an impressive NFL Combine performance when he ran one of the fastest times ever at the annual event. He is most frequently compared to Minnesota's Percy Harvin, former Kansas City receiver/returner Dante Hall or Philadelphia’s Jeremy Maclin because of his outstanding quickness getting into the secondary and his ability to take a short pass and turn it into a long gainer.
"I'm going to go there and I'm definitely going to work hard and I'm not going to be a distraction," said Austin. "I'm going to come in with the right mindset and hopefully put some points on the board so our team can get some wins."
He is believed to be the smallest player (5-feet-8 1/2 inches, 174 pounds) ever taken this early in the draft.
"This is the craziest draft I've ever been a part of," said ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. "When would you ever think that a receiver 5-foot-8 1/2, 175 would go this early?"
"In this modern game, the way these creative offensive coordinators are using players like this, it's a logical pick," added Gruden.
Austin answered questions about his size and concerns about his durability in the NFL.
"You've just got to come in and work hard. You've got to protect yourself," he said. "Pretty much I haven't missed a game in eight years and that's between high school and college. I'm just going to try and come into the league and take care of my body and do the same thing. Get down what I need to get down and step out of bounds when I need to."
Austin becomes the 10th Mountaineer player selected in the first round and joins last year’s first-round pick Bruce Irvin to make it the first time in school history West Virginia has had first-round selections in back to back drafts.
Austin is the first Mountaineer offensive player to be taken in the first round since 2000 when tight end Anthony Becht was the 27th overall choice by the New York Jets and the highest since offensive tackle Brian Jozwiak went No. 7 to the Kansas City Chiefs in 1986.
He is also the earliest WVU player to go in the draft since 2005 when Pacman Jones went No. 6 to the Tennessee Titans. Coincidentally, Fisher was coaching at Tennessee when Jones was selected.
Austin is the first wide receiver selected in the first round by the Rams since St. Louis drafted NC State's Torry Holt in 1999.
"I'm just ready to get to St. Louis and go to work," said Austin.West Virginia's First Round Draft Picks
2013, Tavon Austin, No. 8, St. Louis Rams
2012, Bruce Irvin, No. 15, Seattle Seahawks
2005, Pacman Jones, No. 6, Tennessee Titans
2000, Anthony Becht, No. 27, New York Jets
1990, Renaldo Turnbull, No. 14, New Orleans Saints
1986, Brian Jozwiak, No. 7, Kansas City Chiefs
1966, Dick Leftridge, Pittsburgh Steelers
1958, Chuck Howley, Chicago Bears
1956, Joe Marconi, Los Angeles Rams
1936, Joe Stydahar, Chicago Bears