November 16, 2019 was a memorable day in the life of Memphis wide receiver Calvin Austin III. After a breakout 5-reception, 81-yard performance against Houston, the walk-on receiver was rewarded with a scholarship.
April 30, 2022 was another memorable day for Austin. The two-time All-AAC standout was rewarded with an NFL opportunity. Austin was selected 138th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He joined guard Dylan Parham as the second Memphis Tiger selected in 2022, and the two helped extend the Tigers’ streak to nine consecutive seasons with a draft pick.
Austin lit up the stat sheet with regularity while wearing the blue and silver. After receiving a scholarship, he began making key contributions for a 2019 Tigers squad which won the AAC and earned a coveted Cotton Bowl bid. But it was the 2020 pandemic-shortened season when the 5’8”, 170 pound receiver truly made a name for himself. He finished eighth in the FBS with 1,053 receiving yards and sixth in the country with 11 receiving touchdowns.
That breakthrough 2020 campaign carried into the fall of 2021, where he accumulated a career-best 1,149 yards and eight touchdowns. Austin pieced together a mind-blowing 5-game stretch in the first half of his final collegiate season where he tallied 790 yards including a pair of 200-yard explosions.
At the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis, Austin’s speed bolstered his draft stock. The former high school track star clocked a 4.32-second time in the 40-yard dash and completed the shuttle and 3-cone drill in 4.07 and 6.65 seconds, respectively. This speed was also evident on punt returns, and Austin returned two to the house during his Memphis tenure. The latter of those touchdowns was a heads-up play against Mississippi State which ultimately secured the victory for the Tigers.
This is what heads up football looks like. Calvin Austin III makes a brilliant decision to put Memphis up two scores late. #GTG pic.twitter.com/q4er36awL9— Steve Helwick (@s_helwick) September 18, 2021
Austin joins Memphis’ impressive fraternity of offensive skill position players in the NFL Draft — joining wide receiver Anthony Miller and running backs Darrell Henderson, Tony Pollard, Antonio Gibson, and Kenneth Gainwell — all of whom were drafted in the past five drafts. He is the 20th receiver off the board and the third to hail from the AAC.
In the Steel City, he joins a depth chart which lost its most tenured receiver in JuJu Smith-Schuster during free agency. The Steelers depth chart features incumbents Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson, as well as the team’s 2022 second round pick George Pickens. Pittsburgh also added former Memphis receiver Anthony Miller — another former walk-on — to the receiver room in January, so Austin won’t be in the only Tiger wideout suiting up in black and gold this fall.