New York Jets’ sixth-round pick Bless Austin made his MetLife Stadium debut on Sunday after dealing with injuries all season.
It was all too appropriate that the cornerback’s NFL debut came during the quadrennial meeting between the Jets and New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.
The Queens native got his start at Campus Magnet High School before becoming one of the rare silver linings of Rutgers’ Big Ten era. Injuries haunted him every step of the way, including a knee ailment that followed him from Piscataway. But, healthy and ready to go on Sunday, he played a role in the Jets’ 34-27 victory.
Austin was called up during the preparation for the Giants, as the Jets were desperate for relief with injuries infecting the secondary. Sunday marked his first game action in over a calendar year, his last appearance against another team coming in Rutgers’ 2018 season opener in September against Texas State. Overall, injuries limited him to five Scarlet Knights games over the past two seasons.
He wound up with three and tackles and two pass defenses against the Giants. A forced fumble also came during the Giants’ final desperation play that kicked off the Jets’ metropolitan celebration.
The defender wasn’t nervous at all taking a game field for the first time in 14 months, mainly thanks to mental reps and inspiration from defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson.
“Even though I was hurt, I was always mimicking my movements and what we were doing,” Austin said, per transcripts provided by the Jets. “When the team had practice and things like that, I was always paying attention in the meeting room, I didn’t just let time go by. I took advantage of the time so when my number got called, I was ready.
“I didn’t have any nerves at all, to be honest with you, I just trusted my training. (Wilson) did a great job preparing me for this opportunity, so I wasn’t really nervous at all.”
That readiness helped Austin pick up where he left off. In his sophomore season of 2016, he ranked second in the Big Ten in pass defenses with 14.
Wilson is certainly a great mind to guide Austin through this new challenge and one who would understand the literal and mental pain of having an NFL career marred by injury.
After a college career as a three-year starter with Maryland, Wilson partook in Washington Redskins training camp but a knee injury ended his NFL journey before it got started.
Austin is pleased his professional debut is off his checklist, but he’s eager to see where this continuing journey takes him.
“There’s a lot of things I got to clean up being a rookie, even my coach told me that, so (we’re) going to get together and work,” Austin said. “I was just happy to be given an opportunity to show how I could help the team. That’s it, I’m just grateful for the opportunity, we’re just back to work. I got a goal in mind, I’m on a mission.”
Austin and the Jets (2-7) return to action next Sunday afternoon in Washington (1:00 p.m. ET, FOX).