A DIFFERENT WORLD
Austin and his wife, Brooke, had only been married for about a year when the Colts came calling. The couple knew that entering the world of professional sports would be quite a shock, so they did their best to make a smooth transition into their new life. “I talked to some of the LDS guys who have played in the NFL, and one thing they all told me is to be prepared, because it is a lonely, lonely place,” Austin recalls.
But instead of the wild party environment that often accompanies professional sports, Austin and Brooke were relieved to find the Colts to be an upstanding organization—complete with team Bible study every Tuesday morning. “The general manager, who does all the recruiting, does a phenomenal job making sure the personal background is a match [for the team],” Austin explains. “From Peyton Manning all the way down to free agents, the Colts make sure their guys are academically strong and are people of great character.”
Austin also reports that his teammates are respectful and supportive of his standards. “The players know I don’t drink. They don’t ever ask me to do anything I don’t want to do, and they don’t give me a hard time at all,” he says. “They’ll tell the waiter, ‘He’ll have a Diet Coke.’” Brooke adds, “It’s like they’re really watching out for him.”
Unfortunately, during football season Austin does not have the opportunity to attend church very often. Games are frequently scheduled on Sundays, and players are required to be at the stadium three hours beforehand. Players are also required to stay in a hotel the night before a game. With such a hectic schedule, Austin does his best to make the gospel a priority. “Having so many things going on, we had to make sure we were doing all the small things—saying prayers every night, fulfi lling our callings,” he says. “Especially for me—I think I made it to church two times during the season, and I noticed the difference. This year I’ve been able to get into institute. I think that will be good.”
As Austin works to stay spiritually strong, he also strives to treat the football field like a mission field. “We’ve had opportunities to share the gospel with [my coaches] and other players. One player asks me questions all the time and wants to know more. I invited him to one of the firesides I spoke at, and he listened to the whole thing.”
He continues, “One time he was in a hotel room after having surgery on his knee, and he was bored. He happened to be staying at a Marriott, so I said, ‘Look in the nightstand.’ Sure enough, there was a Book of Mormon. Sure enough, he came back to me two days later talking about Nephi. I’ve had many opportunities to share what I’m about.”
In addition to sharing the gospel with teammates and friends, Austin takes every opportunity to talk about the Church with the media. “Anytime that I’m asked in an interview about my mission or about our beliefs in general, I think right there is a missionary moment. I know people in Indianapolis are going to read it, some teammates are going to read it—bit by bit it’s going to give the public a glimpse of what we believe in.”