FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Blessuan Austin couldn’t hold back his tears. They could be heard through a speaker on a conference call after he was picked by the Jets.
The former Rutgers cornerback tore his ACL as a junior and again as a senior. Austin never got to reach his potential in college, but he’s out to show he can in the NFL.
“I can’t even say what I feel right now,” he said. “Just having the opportunity to be in this position after going through what I went through, I’m thankful and I’m humble, too. At the same time, me being a competitor, I got a burning fire in my chest that I don’t think can be put out as long as I’m playing this game.”
The Jets selected the Queens product with the 196th pick in the sixth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday. Cornerback certainly is a need for the Jets, but Austin comes with some red flags.
He had 14 pass breakups as a sophomore but played in only five games in his last two years at Rutgers. In the first game of his senior year, he retore his ACL after making an interception.
“To go through these knee injuries after having some success, being so close at the pinnacle of my career and just to be constantly knocked down, it was just hard to deal with,” Austin said. “But I’ve been blessed with perseverance and I have the ability to go through adversity. That’s what got me here today.”
Austin hasn’t been medically cleared to play yet, but general manager Mike Maccagnan said team doctors spent a lot of time with him and believe he will make a full recovery. Maccagnan said Austin is likely to start the season on the physically unable to perform list.
“We feel good about his ability to potentially recover and be the player he once was,” Maccagnan said. “We felt he has a much higher ceiling than where we got him in the draft. There’s risk to him, but we felt good about it after going through the whole process with him, the coaching staff, the scouts and the doctors.”
The Jets also took West Virginia blocking tight end Trevon Wesco with the No. 121 pick of the fourth round and Minnesota inside linebacker Blake Cashman at 157 in the fifth on Day 3 of the draft.
Maccagnan, who thinks Wesco could become a starter, made two trades to end up with those picks. But he was unable to move inside linebacker Darron Lee. The former first-round pick’s days as a Jet became numbered after they signed C.J. Mosley.
The Jets have until May 3 to pick up the fifth-year option on Lee. Maccagnan wouldn’t say if they will.
The day started with the Jets owning the No. 105 pick, but Maccagnan sent it to the Saints for 116 and 168. He later dealt them to the Titans for 121 and 157.
The Jets’ overall draft haul was Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, Florida outside linebacker Jachai Polite, USC offensive tackle Chuma Edoga, Wesco, Cashman and Austin.
Williams was considered a no-brainer, but Polite comes with some maturity and character concerns.
Cashman, a walk-on at Minnesota, had surgeries to repair a torn labrum in both shoulders while he was in college, and had three shoulder operations in three years.
“We feel good,” Maccagnan said about the draft. “We feel like we got some guys that we think have a good chance to help us. There’s definitely some players that we think have some upside and potential.”