Unlikely Pro Bowler Austin made the most of his opportunities

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The idea that wide receiver Miles Austin would ever truly get his shot to shine with the Dallas Cowboys looked bleak in October of 2008.

Dallas already had Terrell Owens on its roster when Cowboys owner Jerry Jones decided to acquire Roy Williams in a midseason trade with Detroit. Jones gave up four draft picks for Williams -- including a first-rounder -- to obtain the player he believed would supplant Owens as the team's No. 1 receiver.

Little did Jones know Owens' replacement was already on his roster.

Williams' five-year, $45 million extension following the trade seemed to have all but guaranteed Austin even more bench time, but he never wavered in his belief that if he worked hard enough, he would eventually get his chance.

"That's the thing about him," Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said of Austin. "He doesn't allow those little things to get in the way of his focus."

"I was never discouraged," said Austin, who was an undrafted free agent in 2006 out of Division I-AA Monmouth. "I was still aware of what happened. I'm not oblivious to the fact that if you pay this guy this much money and we already have this guy here... I'm aware of what happens.

"But I couldn't control any of that. The only thing I could control is myself and how hard I work, and that's what I continued to do, and that's what I will continue to do."

It's the sort of mentality that has earned Austin his first Pro Bowl trip after a breakout season in which he had 81 receptions for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Looking back on Austin's season, he announced his arrival with one record-setting performance: Week 5 at Kansas City. Making his first start because of a rib injury to Williams, Austin caught 10 passes for a franchise-record 250 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime.

Right after his huge performance, Austin wasn't ready to just be satisfied with finally getting some recognition. He stayed focused on building upon it.

"My immediate thoughts were 'keep bringing it every week'", Austin said. "You can't bring it one week and then just sit back and say how awesome that was. You've got to keep going with it and working hard, and that's what I did."

That attitude also impressed Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.

"It's a great testimony to a guy who goes and works hard every day, and then takes advantage of an opportunity when he gets it," Garrett said. "This year against Kansas City he got his chance to start and seized the opportunity, and got better and better every day."

Austin's time had finally come, and he took advantage of it in the biggest way. No surprise to him, though, because he was always confident that his determination would eventually get him noticed in Dallas.

"It's a lot of hard work. I work every day during the season and in the offseason," Austin said. "It's a testament to how hard people work, how hard you play in a game, and what you do with the opportunities that are given to you. I feel so fortunate to be here with these other guys."

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