MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- There was a moment during a lengthy interview session with Tavon Austin at the Big 12's media days in July when he spoke about goals and desires, presumably as they related to football. Austin said he needed -- as opposed to wanted -- to move his mother and grandmother out of their home in Baltimore.
"It's not a gated community with brick houses and all of that," said WVU assistant coach Lonnie Galloway, who recruited Austin out of Dunbar High before Austin signed with the Mountaineers in 2009. "Where Dunbar is ... is a tough area, but if you surround yourself with the right people, you can make it out."
It happened for Austin Thursday night, when he was picked eighth overall in the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall, where he was surrounded again by the people who helped make it happen. There was his mother, Cathy Green, and his grandmother, Louann Green. There were aunts and cousins and friends and the line of embraces delayed Austin's arrival on the stage for a hug from Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The smile was impossible to hide. Wearing a maroon suit and tie to match his high school's colors, Austin knew in the back of his head his move to the NFL meant a move for his mother and grandmother.
"The goal was to get my mother and my grandmother out of the city," Austin said. "I don't know if they want to leave, but I'll definitely get them a better house in a gated community so they don't have to worry about living in the hood. That was my No. 1 goal and that's happening now."
It was a long time coming. Austin remembers dreaming of the NFL when he was 7 years old. He had older cousins who played the game. They were Austin's role models and they toughened him for a game that wasn't so kind to someone his size. His mother ran track when she was younger and she used to chase her son down until one day Austin was just too fast. She and Louann were the first to encourage Austin to use his gift.
"Don't run in this house all day," they would say before sending him outside.
It wasn't always safe there, though. Austin said that during one four-week period during his senior season, three of his friends were shot and killed there. It was a reminder that he needed to make the most of his opportunity and it heightened his urgency to make life better for his family.
It's imminent now. According to OverTheCap.com, the No. 8 pick in the draft will sign a four-year contract worth about $12.7 million with around $7.6 of that guaranteed. His salary would top out at $4 million in 2016 and a fifth-year team option would be worth the average salary of the top 10 receivers in the league. If the team picks up the option after Austin's third season, the fifth-year salary is guaranteed.
According to 2013 salaries, the average salary of the 10 highest-paid receivers is more than $6.8 million and that would only rise by the time Austin is eligible for the option.
"I'm definitely going to move them to a nice place outside in the county, Harford County, or something like that, where it's a gated community and I pretty much know they're comfortable while I'm here working and they're back there just waiting for my game days on Sunday," Austin said at his introductory press conference Saturday in St. Louis, where he'll wear No. 11.
The Rams traded four picks to the Buffalo Bills for two of their picks so they could move up from No. 16 to take Austin. St. Louis, which needed to replace departed free agent slot receiver Danny Amendola, met twice with Austin a week before the draft. Aware of his physical assets, the Rams put his acumen to the test.
Austin was quickly schooled on formations, plays and audibles. The offensive coordinator and the receivers coach then called out a play and a defense.