Dal­las’ Austin emerged in last year

Re­ceiver has gone from lit­tle-known player to celebrity

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Stephen Hawkins

SAN AN­TO­NIO — Miles Austin in­sists he is the same as al­ways, de­spite his quick rise from rel­a­tive un­known to Pro Bowl re­ceiver, the cover of the lat­est Sports Il­lus­trated and Kim Kar­dashian com­pan­ion.

“I’ve been do­ing the same things. It’s just that more peo­ple are pay­ing at­ten­tion now,” Austin said Sun­day, try­ing to con­vince re­porters and cam­eras sur­round­ing him that he feels no dif­fer­ent from when peo­ple didn’t even no­tice him less than a year ago. “I’ve got the star on my hel­met. But that’s about it.”

Yet, Austin no longer comes on the field at Dal­las Cow­boys train­ing camp with­out fan­fare. There are plenty of cheers when he emerges from the tun­nel and catches passes from Tony Romo.

The New Jersey na­tive gets rec­og­nized in pub­lic now and cer­tainly gets pho­tographed when he keeps cer­tain com­pany — though Austin and Kar­dashian, the re­al­ity TV star who is Reg­gie Bush’s for­mer girl­friend, are coy about whether they are ac­tu­ally dat­ing.

“It’s like tak­ing some­body work­ing at The Con­tainer Store in the closet, and now he’s the Amer­i­can Idol,” team­mate Bradie James said. “That’s only in Amer­ica and only on Amer­ica’s Team that you can do that.

“Miles is still level­headed. Miles is still the same guy. Peo­ple like him now, more peo­ple.”

Go­ing into his fifth NFL sea­son, the for­mer un­drafted re­ceiver from tiny Mon­mouth Col­lege is no longer pri­mar­ily a kick re­turner who oc­ca­sion­ally gets a pass thrown his way.

Austin has emerged as Romo’s fa­vorite tar­get, and a prob­lem for de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tors league-wide. Plus, he’s in line for a big new con­tract.

The 26-year-old Austin signed a $3.168 mil­lion con­tract in June, but owner Jerry Jones re­peat­edly has said the Cow­boys want to sign the re­ceiver to a long-term deal.

So much has changed since he got his first NFL start last Oc­to­ber at Kansas City, fill­ing in for in­jured Roy Wil­liams. He fin­ished with 10 catches for 250 yards against the Chiefs to break the team’s sin­gle-game yardage record set by Hall of Fame re­ceiver “Bul­let Bob” Hayes in 1966. He also had two late touch­downs, in­clud­ing a 60-yarder in over­time.

It was quite a break­out per­for­mance for Austin, who en­tered with 23 ca­reer catches, in­clud­ing five in the first four games last sea­son.

His en­core was six catches for 171 yards and two more TDs in Dal­las’ next game. He went on to fin­ish with 81 catches for 1,320 yards, sixth-best in team his­tory and the sixth-best by any un­drafted re­ceiver ever in the NFL.

“I pretty much have the same con­fi­dence (as be­fore). Don’t get me wrong, I was get­ting more op­por­tu­ni­ties last year, and hope­fully I’ll get as many op­por­tu­ni­ties this year,” he said. “Ob­vi­ously other peo­ple are prob­a­bly go­ing to hold some sort of stan­dard, but my stan­dard re­ally is just work.”

Romo, an­other un­drafted player from a small school who knows some­thing about NFL star­dom and celebrity, agreed that Austin hasn’t changed much.

“Too much is made out of some of the other stuff that goes into it. The dif­fer­ence once you start play­ing and play­ing at a de­cent level is that peo­ple start talk­ing about you,” Romo said. “Miles has been do­ing the same things he was do­ing be­fore. It’s just now when peo­ple see him they take his pic­ture or they write about it.”

Austin was a rookie when he started catch­ing passes from Romo in 2006, even be­fore Romo took over as the start­ing quar­ter­back seven games into that sea­son.

In­stead of ex­tra reps on the prac­tice field, Romo and Austin now are hook­ing up for real for the de­fend­ing NFC East cham­pi­ons with Su­per Bowl ex­pec­ta­tions.

Asked if it would be tough to re­peat what they did last year, Austin re­sponded, “No, not re­ally” and quickly in­di­cated he wasn’t specif­i­cally talk­ing about num­bers.

“Sta­tis­ti­cally, who knows what’s go­ing to hap­pen. But I know my ef­fort is go­ing to be the same or higher,” Austin said. “I’m do­ing the same things. I’m not chang­ing any­thing.”

Tony Gu­tier­rez

Miles Austin (19) signs au­to­graphs for fans on Sun­day at the Cow­boys’ train­ing camp in San An­to­nio. Austin has emerged as Tony Romo’s fa­vorite re­ceiv­ing tar­get and is in line for a big new con­tract.

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