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Boomer Bio: Austin Haywood
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Talented tight end prospect ready to step up for Sooners
Prior to his arrival at the University of Oklahoma last fall, Austin Haywood had almost always relied on his God-given talent to help give him a competitive edge. It worked at the junior high level and it worked at the high school level, so Haywood figured there was no reason to change his strategy when he joined the Sooners.
Chalk one up to inexperience.
A few days into camp, Haywood found himself battling just to secure a spot on the offensive depth chart. The starting job was nowhere in sight, and earning any amount of varsity game experience didn’t seem likely.
“I wasn’t quite ready for all the challenges I faced when I got to OU,” said Haywood. “There is a lot of demand on you from all different directions. I needed to grow up a little bit and change the way I did some things, especially the way I worked out and prepared myself.”
It took Haywood almost his entire freshman season to become acclimated to his new surroundings and the level of commitment required to succeed at a program like Oklahoma. While his athleticism and heart helped keep him from completely fading into the woodwork, he basically had to reinvent himself when it came to work ethic and accountability.
“No one ever doubted Austin’s ability. He’s got tons of it,” said Bruce Kittle, OU tight ends coach. “Part of Austin’s deal has been his maturity and how he needed to progress in that aspect. A lot of being successful at this level is getting up every single day, working hard and doing your absolute best. It took Austin a little more time to figure some things out, and I know it put him behind on where he wanted to be with the program.”
As the 2010 season progressed, so too did Haywood.
Although James Hanna and Trent Ratterree were still getting most of the snaps at tight end, the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Anadarko native earned valuable experience working on special teams in 11 games. Haywood did see a few snaps at tight end late in games and eventually came to the realization that he would have to dedicate himself even more fully to get the results he desired.
Phase One of Haywood’s plan was to train harder.
“To be honest, I’ve never been a weight-room guy. I’ve never liked it,” said Haywood, a four-star prospect and Class 6A player of the year at Southmoore as a prep senior. “At OU, you have to be strong mentally and physically just to survive Coach Schmitty’s workouts. But I got in there and did it, and it’s really helped me out a lot.”
Haywood’s offseason work has paid off in the form of added muscle that has helped in his efforts to become a better blocker. He entered fall camp bigger, faster, stronger — and most importantly, more confident.
On top of that, he dug a little deeper into the playbook over the summer to get a better understanding of his assignments and routes. All of that has translated into a happier, more balanced Haywood, and that’s great news for the Sooners.
“Austin started to figure some things out last season, and he’s made some adjustments that he needed to make,” said Kittle. “We couldn’t be happier with his determination and willingness to do all the things necessary to help make himself and this team better.”
None of this information is lost on head coach Bob Stoops, who has been keeping a close eye on Haywood’s progress since his arrival.
“Austin is really working hard out there and getting better every day,” said Stoops. “He’s a guy with a ton of talent who just has to keep maturing and gaining experience.”
A better overall attitude has been Haywood’s biggest ally in his transformation process. He checks his ego at the door every morning before practice, rolls up his sleeves and doesn’t stop grinding until the last whistle blows.
“I’m not all the way there yet, but I’m getting there,” said Haywood. “The key for me is to continue to do all the little things right, like practicing hard, showing up on time, studying and doing my best to earn the respect of my teammates and coaches.
“I’m going out there every day and giving it my all on every play. If I do that, if I do my job, I believe good things will happen.”
While Haywood is a much different football player than he was just a few months ago, his expectations haven’t changed. He still believes big things are in store for him as a Sooner — if not this season, then in the not-too-distant future.
His coach agrees.
“Austin has all the tools to be an impact player at this level — athleticism, versatility,” said Kittle. “Add to that the work he’s putting in, and we are expecting a lot of good things from Austin Haywood.”
(Editor's Note: This story appears in the August Preview Issue of Sooner Spectator. To read more or subscribe, call toll free 1-877-841-8877)