Millennium High School coach and special education teacher Jermaine Austin was inducted into the Georgia Southern Athletics Hall of Fame Sept. 25.
He’s celebrating the pinnacle of his athletic career, but he has found new inspiration as an instructor. Teaching is in his DNA.
“Once I finished with college football, I had tryouts and all that with the Giants and some other teams, but I always came back to teaching,” Austin said. “My grandmother taught for 40 years. My uncle is on a board on education for over 20 years. My father was a teacher. My aunt has her own school, and my other uncle taught for 15 years. So, you see why I got in here.”
Austin grew up in Darien, Georgia, and according to him, the role of being a teacher and a coach is more of a rarity in Arizona.
“It’s so crazy because, in Georgia, you have to be a certified teacher to coach,” Austin said. “Here, you don’t have to be a certified teacher, so a lot of the kids get away with a lot of things. With me being on campus, it’s like, ‘Hey, you skipped class today.’ When I have my group of kids, I can hold them accountable as students, not just athletes,”
The three-time All-American uses some of the principles that he was taught in college to help motivate his students inside the classroom and between the white lines.
“I truly believe that because if you run hard in practice, and not just jog around, and you actually run it like it’s a game, you will be successful,” Austin said. “So, look at those little things, just tell the kids you can apply the same lessons to your studying.”
Austin doesn’t use his college success to brag to his athletes or to put himself on a pedestal. Instead, he tries to mentor them. His modest nature called for him to keep his hall of fame induction quiet.
“Everybody always asks me, ‘Jermaine, how were you in college?’ And I always tell them I was alright in college,” Austin said. “I just want these kids to be so much better than I was. And I know back in high school, I worked very hard.”
Austin was one of two players at Georgia Southern to record three 1,400-yard seasons. He credits his success to the teachers who helped him along the way.
“I always wanted to give back, because I always felt like the schools helped me out a lot,” Austin said. “I was in everything as far as student council, the chess club. I mean, I was just in everything,”
Aside from giving life lessons to his students and players, Austin wants them to enjoy the time they have in high school because it doesn’t last forever.
“Once you finish this, you will have one day you’re going to say, ‘Man, I wish I was back in high school,’” Austin said. “When it’s all said and done, I just want them to get along with everyone, and be the best student-athlete they can be. Because when it’s over, it’s over,”
Austin finished second in career rushing yards at Georgia Southern with over 5,000 yards and was named the Southern Conference’s offensive player of the year in 2003. The hall of fame ceremony allowed him to finally close the book on his playing career.
“It was amazing. All my old friends were there to support me,” Austin said, “Old roommates, coaches. Oh, man, just a wonderful experience.”
Austin now has time to focus on other things.
“Now that I’m a teacher up here, it’s not all about sports,” Austin said. “It’s about academics, so I try to be that overall mentor to them.
“As far as being a teacher and a coach, my favorite moment is that ‘a-ha’ moment when the student or the athlete says, ‘Coach I got it.’ That is the best feeling you can have.”