Quiet for much of his rookie season, former Dunbar star Tavon Austin got the NFL talking with his epic breakthrough performance Sunday during the St. Louis Rams' upset victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

The rookie wide receiver piled up 314 all-purpose yards, the second most in Rams franchise history, and ran back a punt 98 yards for the second-longest punt return in franchise history and the third-longest in NFL history.

In the 38-8 win, Austin also caught touchdown passes of 57 and 81 yards for his only receptions of the day. Only Gale Sayers and Randy Moss have had three touchdowns from 55 yards or longer in a single game as rookies.

Earlier this season, Austin had a punt return for a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys and a touchdown catch against the Carolina Panthers nullified due to teammates' penalties.

“It’s kind of difficult but it all boils down to patience,” Austin told St. Louis reporters. “I have been fishing for eight weeks, and hopefully it’s my time right now. But if it’s not, I have just got to keep working hard in practice and wait for another time.”

Drafted eighth overall out of West Virginia, Austin lacks size at 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, but he has 4.38 speed in the 40-yard dash.

For the season, Austin has 33 receptions for 345 yards and four touchdowns.

He didn't catch a pass the previous week against the Tennessee Titans and had just two receptions for nine yards two games ago against the Seattle Seahawks.

Austin helped the Rams build a 28-0 halftime lead with a pair of first-half touchdowns.

"He has the chance to change games, and we’re going to continue working to get him the football,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “There’s respect for him. After the return for a touchdown, the pooch punts took over. When he gets his hands on it, you see what he can do.”

Signed to a $12.751 million contract that includes a $7.653 million signing bonus, Austin had 288 career receptions in college for 3,413 yards and 29  touchdowns as he rushed for 1,033 yards and six touchdowns.

Last season, Austin caught 112 passes for 1,289 yards and a dozen touchdowns.  He rushed for 643 yards and three touchdowns.

Now, Austin is making an impact in the NFL.

“I definitely knew things were going to come,” Austin said. “That’s just me being patient and being true to myself. I keep working. I’m just glad I got the opportunity.”

awilson@baltsun.com
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