- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Marvin Austin stands out like a Hummer among Hondas.

It’s homecoming night at Ballou, and the Knights are playing host to Eastern High. No program is needed to find “Big Marvin,” Ballou’s senior tackle and the nation’s top-ranked high school defensive player.

Though he stands only 6-foot-2, Austin’s 300 pounds are packed perfectly, seemingly weightless on his frame. His face is framed by a helmet of braids and vertically bisected by the line where navy and gold paint meet. Austin is channeling a little “Braveheart” for his final homecoming game. No mere Highlander, much less Mel Gibson, ever looked so intimidating.

Briefly silhouetted as he tosses back his braids to put his helmet on, he actually looks more like another Hollywood incarnation: the Predator from the film by the same name. Given his penchant for destroying opposing offenses and his almost inhuman speed relative to size, perhaps that’s a far better moniker than “Big Marvin” for one of the nation’s most coveted prospects.

• • •

Austin isn’t just fast for a defensive lineman, he’s fast … period. At the DCIAA Indoor Track Championships last year, Austin, then at Coolidge High, made the finals of the 55-meter dash, finishing in 7.00 seconds.

In that same race, Dunbar High’s Arrelious Benn, the District’s second-best recruit, finished in 6.69 seconds.

Benn, arguably the nation’s top-ranked wide receiver, weighs nearly 100 pounds less than Austin.

“Marvin is a freak,” said Bobby Burton, founder of the recruiting service Rivals.com. “You just don’t see guys his size with his quickness and athleticism. It’s just not supposed to happen. He’s going to be a beast.”

On Eastern’s second offensive possession of the game, the Ramblers decided to test Austin with a running play behind the right guard.

“A lot of coaches in this league talk him down and get their players thinking they’re going to show him up,” said Ballou coach Moses Ware, whose Knights (5-3) routed Eastern 56-0 to position themselves for a rematch with DCIAA-dominant Dunbar (7-1) in the Turkey Bowl. “So, they always run one right at Marvin early. It happens every game … once.”

If the stretch play is en vogue in the college and pro games, the stretcher play seems obligatory in the DCIAA. And Eastern’s attempt at the Austin isolation was predictably, if dramatically, futile.

As Eastern’s tailback took the handoff behind a double-team block, Austin swept both blockers aside like cardboard cutouts and met the back facemask-to-facemask a yard deep in the backfield. Big Marvin then wrapped, lifted, drove and demolished the smaller man, shattering his facemask on impact before planting the back shoulders-first into the sod. It’s a good thing the rain-soaked field was soft, otherwise Eastern’s crumpled tailback could have needed a sling or an ambulance, instead of just five minutes, two trainers and some smelling salts.

“I’m sorry for breaking his helmet and all, but, hey, his parents signed him up for the sport and signed the consent forms,” Austin said. “I’m just running in and trying to hit the guy.”

But if Austin is a monster on the field, he’s equally affable and gregarious off it, and he clearly relishes the spotlight. He recently whittled his sheaf of Division I offers to six finalists, which he ranks in the following order: Southern Cal, Florida State, Miami, Tennessee, Illinois and Maryland.

He’s already made an official visit to Illinois (Sept. 22). He has a trip scheduled to Southern Cal (Nov. 24). He regularly attends Maryland home games. And he’s in the process of setting up official visits to Tallahassee, Coral Gables and Knoxville.

Given the coaching uncertainties and season struggles at Florida State and Miami, the Trojans would certainly seem to own the pole position. That notion was strengthened by the presence at the Eastern game of Southern Cal recruiter Todd McNair, the man largely responsible for securing three consecutive top-ranked recruiting classes for Pete Carroll’s Trojans.

“I’m real excited about going out to USC,” said Austin, who has 63 tackles, 11 sacks and 18 tackles for loss this season. “That’s the No. 1 media market in the country, and I’m thinking about going into broadcasting and communications. They’ve been doing a tremendous job with their football program, and I’ve talked to Coach Carroll on numerous occasions, and he seems like a very genuine guy. … It was real cool having ‘T-Mac’ in the stands tonight.”

McNair isn’t allowed to comment on recruits by NCAA rule, but his massive grin as he watched Austin torment the Ramblers all night spoke volumes.

“You look out there and watch the things Marvin does, and it’s almost like we’re cheating,” Ware said with a chuckle. “The thing about it is he’s a senior, and he’s still playing with a chip on his shoulder. He’s still playing like he’s got something to prove. He’s a pleasure to coach, because he’s got work habits equal to his amazing ability. If there’s a better player out there, I’d like to see him, because Marvin is playing his tail off.”

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