The first time twins Lance and Lawrence Austin played on the same football team they were 7-year-olds. It was in Milledgeville. Lance doesn’t remember the team nickname.
The next few years, though, it was the Eagles. Then teammates at Georgia Military College’s prep school for sixth grade, the Bulldogs. Then at Lamar County Middle School and Lamar County High School, the Trojans. Besides football, there was soccer, track and, for two years at Lamar County High, wrestling.
“We were the same weight (class), but one person had to go up a weight,” said Austin, who was the one who bumped up.
Then, they were Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets for the past four years. From the time they were 7, every year, every team: teammates. And now, finally, they have a most improbable opportunity – to remain together as Atlanta Falcons, the team they’ve cheered for since they were children.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Lance said.
Frankly, the chances are not great, but Lance and Lawrence Austin – defensive backs at Tech and the embodiment of fearlessness and competitiveness – will take it. That they’re doing it together for a team they grew up rooting for – a team whose season-ticket base includes their father, Derick – is a bonus.
“Can’t really get away from each other,” Lawrence said.
The Austins didn’t have any delusions about their chances going into the NFL Draft weekend, but were hopeful they would have a destination at the end of it. The Austins’ agent, Thomas Hunter, had heard from enough teams to believe that they would either get signed as undrafted free agents after the draft ended Saturday or be offered a tryout opportunity.
They watched the final day of the draft together Saturday in their apartment with Tech A-back Qua Searcy, their roommate, friend and longtime teammate dating to Lamar County. It was not what you’d call a draft party. Lawrence didn’t even remember what they ate – he thinks they might have gotten something on campus.
“Nothing major,” Lawrence reported. “Just chilling on my couch.”
Unlike many draft hopefuls, the Austins said they weren’t nervous during the process.
“If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen,” Lance said. “I just kind of went with the flow and waited for my time.”
Lawrence said that there were other teams that wanted one or the other to come for a tryout. Another team besides the Falcons – he thought it might have been the Jets – also wanted both. Going somewhere together was not an objective, they said.
“At this level, it’s a business,” Lawrence said. “It’s a dream, and it’s a blessing just to have this opportunity. It really didn’t matter that we went to different teams. It’s jut a blessing to get an opportunity.”
Ultimately, Hunter recommended the Falcons based on their consistent interest in the two. A Falcons assistant coach worked out the Austins and safety Corey Griffin at Tech’s Pro Day, and coach Dan Quinn was an active observer of the drills, and even had them perform two sets of Falcons-specific drills. The Falcons also informed Hunter that Lance performed well at their area workout at Flowery Branch.
“We can help each other out,” Lawrence said. “If I see that he’s doing something wrong, I’ll let him know.”
Last year, the Falcons brought in 27 tryout players to their rookie minicamp and signed two. Both, though, were put on the team’s practice squad and one (defensive tackle Taniela Tupou) was promoted to the active squad and played in one game.
Facing long odds is nothing new. At 5-foot-9 (Lawrence) and 5-10 (Lance), they’ve heard they were too small for years. They were lightly recruited by power-conference schools, but went on to start a combined 45 games, showing toughness, durability and a knack for big plays.
The Falcons want to see Lawrence at safety and Lance at corner, according to Lawrence.
“I think I have a pretty good chance,” Lawrence said. “Just go in there and do what I need to do. I’m willing to do anything it takes – special teams, playing different positions in the secondary, whatever they need me to do.”
It’s a hectic time. They have been finishing up final exams this week and will both graduate on Saturday with degrees in business administration. They’re continuing to work out in advance of the rookie minicamp, which begins May 11.
“It’s a blessing,” Lance said. “I’m not greedy. All I need is a foot in the door to show them what I can do.”
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