Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys’ Tavon Austin brings speed, versatility and a big chip on his shoulder from the Rams

Cowboys receiver Tavon Austin sporting a sun hat during the morning walk-through at training camp in Oxnard, Calif., on July 27.
Cowboys receiver Tavon Austin sporting a sun hat during the morning walk-through at training camp in Oxnard, Calif., on July 27. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

Tavon Austin will always play with a chip on his shoulder. That’s just the way it has been, he said, and will always be.

The 5-foot-8 receiver has been counted out and overlooked because of his size, which has helped build that chip.

“There’s always going to be a chip on my shoulder, No. 1 because I’ve always been small,” said Austin, who was the last player off the practice field Thursday evening.

Austin, who was the No. 8 overall pick out of West Virginia in the 2013 NFL draft, felt misused by the Rams in 2017. He played in all 16 games but was never fully healthy after offseason wrist surgery to repair some ligaments and a hamstring injury early in training camp that kept him out of the entire preseason. A Week 3 concussion also didn’t help.

Austin, 28, only caught 13 passes for 47 yards and rushed 59 times for 270 yards. His total 317 yards from scrimmage in ‘17 were his fewest in five seasons.

“Last year was a little hard for me with my injury, I didn’t get a fair chance over there, but God has me right now. I’m happy right now,” he said. “The [Cowboys] took an opportunity on me and I’m making the best of it.”

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett expects Austin to add versatility to the offense.

“I think Tavon has so many skills that allow him to line up in a lot of different places on the field,” Garrett said. “He’s not the biggest guy, but there have been other guys who have been about his size who have been able to function well outside. But he’s also demonstrated he can play inside in the slot and you can hand him the ball from the backfield. His versatility is something that really struck us as he was coming out of school, a really high pick.”

Austin has routinely been one of the last players off the practice field so far through camp. And it’s not because he’s visiting with family, signing autographs or talking to media. He’s actually still going through drills after official practices are complete. He’s got a simple reason for that.

“That’s always been me. You’ve got to respect the game. You can’t come out here and think you’re not going to do it in practice and do it in a game,” he said. “I had to realize that when I got my injury. If you don’t respect the game, the game is not going to respect you. So when I come out here I don’t care if it’s five minutes or two hours, I’m going to try to do every route the same.”

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