NEW YORK -- From the end of his high school career to the start of his professional career, teams have always wanted Tavon Austin and gone out of their way to acquire everything he can do.
The highly recruited player from Baltimore's Dunbar High and the wildly decorated speedster from West Virginia, Austin's ascent to the top of the NFL Draft concluded Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall as the St. Louis Rams traded four picks to move up eight spots to No. 8 and select Austin.
"That means they really wanted me," said the 5-foot-8, 175-pound Austin, who had a pair of meetings with the Rams last week. "It all paid off with me going all the way there for a visit. They put me on their board (to go over plays). I met with their staff and they came back to Morgantown to watch me. I kind of had a feeling they were interested in me."
It's always been this way for Austin, though. The Mountaineers swiped Austin from the backyard of the University of Maryland, where Austin's older cousin, Aaron Thompson, played linebacker. Assistant coach Lonnie Galloway was sent to recruit Austin from the neighborhood not too far and not much unlike the set of the HBO drama "The Wire."
"I went in there just to see what would happen," said Galloway, who was Austin's coach his first two seasons before Galloway went to Wake Forest the past two years and then returned to WVU in January. "I knew who he was. He didn't know who I was. But we hit it off. I didn't go in there thinking I couldn't get him. I went in with the mindset that we were going to do everything we could legally to get him. And it worked out."
That it did, to the total of 4,446 yards and 35 touchdowns on offense and another 2,840 yards and five touchdowns on special teams. Galloway's summary doesn't tell it all. It's too simple, like saying the Rams merely drafted Austin and omitting that they traded all those other picks. It's not even sufficient when Galloway says the two never really talked about football and instead chose to spend their time learning about one other and catching up on what they'd been up to since they last spoke.
Sooner or later in recruiting, that gets old and that's why Galloway introduced another character to enhance the offer, much like the Rams did with the Buffalo Bills.
"He talked to Miss Galloway a whole lot," said Galloway.
Miss Galloway would be the coach's wife, Winslow, who put her own spin on the environment that would welcome and help raise Austin at WVU.
"She was there to have somebody away from home that he knew would be there for him," Lonnie Galloway said. "As a coach, we're not going to tell him what he wants to hear all the time. He talked to Miss Galloway a lot when we were here. We still talk to him and he still talks to her now. When I'm recruiting a kid, I want him to feel like I'm bringing him, whether I'm going to be his coach or not, into my family."
Austin's surroundings would change at WVU. After Galloway left, Dana Holgorsen was promoted from coach-in-waiting in place of the ousted Bill Stewart. Holgorsen had been excited to maximize Austin's abilities from the first time he walked through the Puskar Center. His tour guide was Oliver Luck and the athletic director offered a tip that would open Holgorsen's eyes to what he'd experience the next two seasons.