Dunbar's Austin makes oral commitment to W.Va.

The Baltimore Sun

Tavon Austin, the record-setting football player who led Dunbar to three straight state championships, has committed orally to play for West Virginia.

"It felt like I was home. It just felt good to be there," Austin said of his recruiting trip. "I thought it was a real good situation for me. I can be a running back there, or I can also play in the slot.

"Most of the running backs at West Virginia are small, fast, shifty, and that played a big part in my decision. It's where Steve Slaton [now of the Houston Texans, who has a similar running style] played, and that played a part, too."

At 5 feet 9, 170 pounds, Austin was small but exceptionally quick and versatile. His position this season was listed simply as "athlete." He was one of the most highly recruited players in area football history.

The Baltimore Sun's three-time Offensive Player of the Year set four state records during his career - points (790), touchdowns (123), rushing yards (7,460) and total offensive yards (9,258). Last fall, he led the No. 3 Poets (11-1) to their third straight state Class 1A championship, gaining 3,637 all-purpose yards and scoring 228 points.

By December, Austin had narrowed his list to West Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and Michigan. Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen even arrived at one Dunbar game, played under the lights at Poly, in a helicopter.

Still, Austin was drawn to the Mountaineers.

"I went to West Virginia, and I felt like I was part of the family. ... Besides, I thought I would play earlier at West Virginia. I did my homework, and West Virginia leads the Big East in Rhodes scholars. They graduate a lot of their players."

He also watched the Meineke Car Care Bowl between his top two choices, West Virginia and North Carolina. The Mountaineers won, 31-30.

"I did watch the game, but I pretty much had my mind made up by then. I wanted to see the different styles between the Big East and the ACC. I was glad that West Virginia came out on top," he said.

Austin said in December that he would wait until the Feb. 4 signing date to make his decision. However, he's glad he finished ahead of schedule.

"It feels good," he said last night. "I know I'll get a good education at West Virginia. I have a lot off of my chest now. I'm glad it's over."

Baltimore Sun reporter Sandra McKee contributed to this article.

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