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TIMES-DISPATCH: Austin turns the corner Ex-Hokies star making a bid for a Skins job


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Sports Focus: Redskins

Austin turns the corner Ex-Hokies star making a bid for a Skins job

BY PAUL WOODY

TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER Aug 09, 2003

http://www.timesdispatch.com/frontpage/MGBM9QBU4JD.html

NFL PRESEASON

SKINS AT PANTHERS

TONIGHT:

8 p.m. TV:

WWBT-12

Larry Austin spent two seasons as a starting cornerback at Virginia Tech. He has seen some fine players and stopped some powerful offenses. Austin, though, has seldom faced a challenge as formidable as the one he faces this month.

Austin, 24, is attempting to make the roster of the Washington Redskins as a cornerback, a position where the Redskins have a number of talented players.

Austin has been working against the Redskins' wide receivers twice a day for almost two weeks. He's ready to see some different faces, some different pass patterns and some different surroundings.

Tonight he'll get his wish when the Redskins play the Carolina Panthers in the first preseason game for both teams. The game will be played in Charlotte.

"Any time you get an opportunity like this, to try to make a squad of this caliber, it's always exciting," Austin said.

Austin is not new to the world of professional football. He was in the Houston Texans' camp last year and was cut after the third preseason game.

That sent him on an odyssey that, so far, has taken him to Florida, Norfolk, Europe and here.

When no one picked him up last season, Austin got a part-time job, continued to work out and went to the tryout camp for NFL Europe. He strained a hamstring at the tryout camp in Tampa and was sent home. But the talent evaluators at the camp liked him enough to tell him to wait for a phone call. Austin lives in Norfolk and is a graduate of Norview High School.

The call came soon, and Austin went to Amsterdam to play for the Admirals.

But first, he was placed on the Admirals' practice squad.

"Before they activated me, Barcelona claimed me," Austin said. "I was there for seven games. The Dragons already had two corners, one who had been there the whole time, and one who was allocated [sent there by an NFL team]. The allocated player would play the first half, and I would play the second half. I did start one game. The caliber of player over there is a step away from the NFL. Everybody who was there was either on the bubble or in somebody's camp last year."

Austin is a bit leg weary, but he has yet to miss a Redskins practice. He needs a good performance tonight. Already ahead of him on the depth chart are Champ Bailey, Fred Smoot and Rashad Bauman. Ade Jimoh, a free-agent rookie from Utah State, is having a good training camp so far.

The Redskins will see a few familiar faces tonight. Stephen Davis, who was the starting running back for Washington last season, now plays for the Panthers. Skip Hicks, who played three seasons for the Redskins at running back, is battling for a spot on the Panthers' roster.

AND FURTHERMORE: Place-kicker John Hall will not be in uniform tonight for the Redskins because of a mild groin strain. The team signed Matt Simonton, who was in St. Louis' preseason camp the past two seasons, to fill in for Hall. Ten other Redskins will miss the game because of injuries: RB Ladell Betts (elbow), DL Nic Clemons (hip flexor strain), CB Lloyd Harrison (shoulder), OG Tre Johnson (Achilles heel), OG Rod Jones (ankle), WR Darnerien McCants (hamstring), DE Bruce Smith (knee), LB Jeremiah Trotter (knee), DE Regan Upshaw (knee), WR Pat Wood**** (knee).

Contact Paul Woody at (804) 649-6444

or pwoody@timesdispatch.com

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