Former Aurora football standout Austin to join 'Big Brother' at John Carroll's 'apex of the pyramid'

FRANK ACETO Reporter
Aurora's James Austin (8) gets ready to make a block as teammate Tony Gramm carries the ball against Barberton last fall. Austin, a 2020 Aurora graduate, plans to continue his academic and football careers at John Carroll University in University Heights.

When it came to picking a college, James Austin wanted to find a place that fit all of his needs.

He also wanted to spend some quality time with one of his closest friends.

That close friend happens to be made of the same flesh and blood.

Austin plans to continue his academic and football careers at John Carroll University, a private Jesuit university in University Heights.

Austin, a 2020 graduate who spent his last two years as a starting outside linebacker for the Greenmen, will join his older brother Mac, who is a rising senior linebacker for the Blue Streaks.

Due to a deadly respiratory tract infection known as COVID-19, many have speculated that the world has turned into a real-life version of Nineteen Eighty-Four, a 20th-century dystopian novel by Goerge Orwell.

In this case, though, the younger Austin will be more than happy to take the late English novelist’s advice when it comes to his version of a certain leader of Oceania.

“You must love Big Brother. It is not enough to obey him: You must love him.”

Duly noted, says Austin.

“My brother has been a huge role model for me and has helped me in various ways, on and off the field,” he said.

Fortunately for the Austin siblings, “Ingsoc” isn’t a required course at John Carroll. When it comes to the 63-acre suburban campus that was founded in 1886, there is no evidence that its students will ever be purged by the mysterious “Thought Police.”

As Austin gleefully learned, it’s quite the opposite.

“I picked John Carroll because I felt at home as soon as I went for a visit,” he said. “They have a great coaching staff and amazing connections for anything you want to do after college.”

For now, Austin can continue focusing on the game he loves. Last year, Austin had a breakout season for Aurora, which finished 13-1 and reached the Division III state semifinals.

Austin finished with 66 total tackles, including three for a loss, eight sacks, five quarterback hurries, two fumble recoveries and one caused fumble.

“James never left the field on defense,” longtime Greenmen head football coach Bob Mihalik said. “He would come in the box to stop the run. Since he’s so athletic, he could cover the slot receiver man to man. He’s going to be hard to replace.”

Austin first became a fixture on Aurora’s defense during his junior year. Sadly, his season didn’t go as planned. That’s because the Greenmen missed the playoffs in 2018 for the first time in 14 years.

Thankfully, the ending turned out to be a beautiful one. And it was something Austin will never forget as long as he lives.

“It was great playing for Aurora,” he said. “I loved the competitive tradition at Aurora. Last year was the best out of all four years because it was with all the kids I grew up with on the same field for the last time.”

If recent history is any indication, Austin will continue enjoying life as a winner.

John Carroll, led by head coach Rick Finotti, finished 9-1 overall and 8-1 in the Ohio Athletic Conference last fall. The Blue Streaks reached the playoffs in 2018 and have seven total postseason appearances, including five in the 21st century.

Best of all, Austin will get to enjoy one glorious last hurrah with someone he knows quite well. Unlike Orwell, Austin is perfectly comfortable with who is lurking “at the apex of the pyramid.”

With Austin and his “Big Brother” leading the way, the Blue Streaks look forward to the day when they become “infallible and all-powerful” on the gridiron.

“My goals at JCU are to help the team win an OAC title and a National Championship,” Austin said. “I am hoping I can be the best player I can be for the team. “

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, faceto@recordpub.com or @Faceto_Gannett.