This was a week when families sat around a table and gave thanks for all they have. Jets rookie cornerback Bless Austin does that every day.
“I don’t need Thanksgiving to be thankful for everything I got going on,” he said. “I always appreciate every single day of the week.”
Austin tore the same ACL twice while playing for Rutgers. The first time was in his fourth game as a junior. In his first game as a senior, he reinjured it and needed another repair
The road back each time was long. He went more than 14 months between his last college game and first NFL game earlier this month. But the confident, positive and ultra-competitive Austin, 23, said he always believed he would play again.
He is extremely thankful and appreciative that he will be running out of the tunnel inside Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday. Every opportunity he gets to run out onto a football field is a great day.
“Most definitely, without a doubt,” Austin said. “You’re away from something you love for two years, you get the opportunity to get back into it. You cherish the little things. No doubt about it.”
Austin, whom the Jets took a chance on with a sixth-round pick, has become an important member of their defense.
Injuries to corners Trumaine Johnson, Darryl Roberts and Nate Hairston opened the door for Austin to go from a pest on the practice squad to an annoyance to opposing receivers.
The Queens native made his NFL debut in Week 10. Austin came off the bench and finished with three tackles, a pass defended and a forced fumble in the win over the Giants.
Austin has started the past two games and shown and done a little more each week. He played all 59 defensive snaps in last week’s victory over the Raiders, recording five tackles, three of them solo.
“You talk about a guy that was hungry to get on the field,” Adam Gase said. “When he stepped on the field, you could tell he was excited to be out there.
“He was driving us nuts on scout team which, when you’re making the wide receivers angry, the guys that are playing on Sunday, then you know he’s got something to him. When he had his opportunity to get thrown in there, whether through injury or we were just moving things around, he took advantage of it.”
Austin began his first NFL camp on the Jets’ non-football injury list. While the Jets were practicing or doing individual or position drills, Austin spent the hot days of training camp conditioning and strengthening his knee.
He was on a side field stretching and running, and Gase said Austin “ran enough sprints for a lifetime.”
When Austin was told that his coach said this, he smiled. Those sprints were tedious, but Austin already knew this was necessary for him to return.
“Usually the things that’s boring is the most important when it comes to doing certain drill work,” Austin said. “Even though that’s what I was doing, I knew at some point it was going to come to a bigger goal, everything’s going to work out.”
Austin was tested, though. He said he felt like his old self in Week 2, but he had to wait to take part in team drills. It wasn’t until mid-October that Austin started practicing with the scout team. The Jets officially activated him on Nov. 7.
“That’s when it got the hardest,” Austin said. “Around Week 2, I really felt like myself and I was able to play. You just got to be patient. You got to understand everything is progress, everything takes time. It’s not your time. It’s God’s time. That’s what you got to understand.”
Austin is a very spiritual man, and he relied on his faith during those tough moments.
He showed promise at Rutgers and might have been drafted in the first or second round had he had an injury-free senior year. But he said everything happens for a reason.
“I guess that was meant to happen for me to be in the place I am now,” he said.
But Austin said falling as far as he did fuels him. That’s not the only thing that does.
“My motivation stems from wanting to be one of the best at what I do,” he said. “I don’t need any motivation externally anymore. The goal I got in mind is bigger than everything else.
“There’s just a fire inside me when I go against somebody that’s good or everybody else knows to be good. I don’t know, I just get into this zone where I want to prove how good I am by trying to dominate the man in front of me.”
Austin is thankful every time he gets a chance to do that.