Local talent takes big stage
By: Tim Anderson, Staff Writer
Let’s get this out of the way at the start: the Ravens are 0-3 and it sucks. With the Orioles a loss or two away from being eliminated from the playoffs, the struggles of the Ravens make it tough for
Baltimore sports fans to get out of bed on Mondays.
While there is still reason to get loud on Sundays for the purple and black, Baltimore sport fans may need a little more to root for on their weekends.
Currently in the NFL, there are a number of players with ties to the Baltimore area. But, as high school and college programs in the area continue to develop, there has been an influx in young, exciting talent that has broken into the league.
Here are the four, young local players currently playing in the NFL who you should be rooting for.
Safety – Chicago Bears
There was a bit of a surprise when the Chicago Bears announced that rookie Adrian Amos would be the team’s starting free safety to begin the season. Amos, drafted with the sixth pick in the fifth round by the Bears, played high school ball at Calvert Hall — a mere five minute drive from Towson University — where he lead the school to MIAA A-Conference championship and a number one ranking in the state. While everyone else was surprised at the opportunity Amos was getting this early in his NFL career, the Bears clearly think they found a steal in the fifth round. After starting all three games of the Bears’ season thus far, Amos has totaled 12 tackles and is still looking for his first interception.
Amos’ talent was criticized as he entered the draft this last year as scouts said his instincts were average and he was unwilling to take risks, often an issue for free safeties. They also said that he seemed reluctant to help stop the run and lacked the ability to make a big hit.
The Bears play this Sunday at 1 p.m. against the Oakland Raiders.
Cornerback – Seattle Seahawks
As a stand-out on defense at Towson University for four years, defensive back Tye Smith was able to grab the attention of the Seattle Seahawks who selected him in the fifth round of the 2015 draft.
Even though he has not had the same opportunity that Amos has had with the Bears, Smith is in a great position as a member of Seattle’s Legion of Boom. Smith is currently third on the depth chart behind Richard Sherman, quite possibly the best cornerback in the NFL.
With the chance to learn from guys like Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor, look for Smith to hopefully grow into a solid NFL career.
The Seahawks play the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football this week.
Running Back – Tennessee Titans
Everyone on campus should already know who Terrance West is at this point, but there are sure to be a few stragglers who completely missed the West-lead glory years here at Towson.
Here’s a quick refresher: in 2013 as a junior, West ran for 2,509 yards and 41 touchdowns on 413 carries, numbers that shattered not just university records but also NCAA FCS records. His efforts lead Tigers to a FCS championship appearance.
After the graduation of his offensive line, West declared for the 2014 NFL draft and was selected in the third round by the Cleveland Browns. This offseason, the Browns traded West to the Tennessee Titans, citing a “lack of maturity” from the 24-year-old back.
Unfortunately for West, after a crucial fumble against the Browns in week two, he was scratched for week three to make room for another running back. So far this season, West has 51 yards on 16 carries with two lost fumbles. While West almost certainly will not put up the same numbers in the NFL as he did at Towson, he has the ability to be a great complimentary back for a lot of teams. The
Titans have a bye in week four.
Tavon Austin Wide Receiver – St. Louis Rams
Undoubtedly the most electrifying player on this list, Tavon Austin has the chance to really make a name for himself in the league.
The eighth overall pick in the 2013 draft by the St. Louis Rams, Austin is a native of West Baltimore and played high school football at Dunbar High School where he lead the school to three consecutive Class 1A state titles.
At Dunbar, Austin did it all: he was the team’s primary running back while also being a dangerous weapon on punt returns. When he graduated, Austin held the Maryland state records for career points, touchdowns, and total offensive yards.
After a successful four-year career at West Virginia University where he transitioned to wide receiver, Austin has an opportunity to help revive the “Greatest Show on Turf” for the Rams.
Already after three weeks on the 2015 season, Austin is filling up the stat sheet. His 57 rushing yards and one touchdown are tied for the Rams’ team lead. He also has eight receptions for 42 yards. And on punt returns, where Austin is most deadly, he has a total of 117 return yards on five attempts, including a 75-yard touchdown.
Austin, now in his third year in the NFL, has had those type of numbers his entire career and, if projections are any indicator, he will be putting up even better numbers very soon. And every time he makes the end zone, West Baltimore watches closely: they never know which local dance he will bust out next.
The Rams play the Arizona Cardinals at 4:25 p.m. this Sunday.