The wait is nearly over. Tomorrow, Charleston Southern will be back on their own turf as they host their first home football game in seven weeks. Fittingly, Saturday's game against Presbyterian is also CSU's homecoming. With Hurricane Matthew and two bye weeks keeping the Bucs out of play and confined to practice, redshirt-senior offensive lineman Erik Austell says the team is ready to go.
"It's too much time off, it feels like camp," Austell said. "We're ready to start the second half of the season."
In the preseason, Austell was the lone Big South representative recognized to the College Football America Yearbook's 2016 FCS Starting Lineup. The Warner Robins, Ga. Native was named to CFA's Preseason All-America Team and has also been recognized as a 2016 STATS FCS Preseason First Team All-American selection and a preseason all-conference selection.
With all of those impressive accolades in mind, we sat down with Austell before game day to get to know more about the man behind the brawn.
Favorite pro sports team: Washington Redskins. My parents are from Maryland, so I was born into it. I think one of my first baby pictures was of me in a Redskins onesie.
Favorite pre-game meal: Normally it's flank steak, chicken and pasta. I also really like it when we go on the road and eat—those hotels do a lot to feed us.
Secret talent or fact: I've been playing the guitar since I was seven. I like to play a lot of Eric Church stuff.
Favorite class: My favorite class is an Introduction to the Graduate Program class I took over the summer that focused on critical thinking.
What is your spirit animal? I would say my spirit animal is a Lab because that's my favorite animal.
Strangest nickname you have: The Hunter. Coach Korn gave me that one my redshirt-freshman year when they moved me from defensive line to offensive line. I was just running around, I had no idea what I was doing, but I was just trying to hit everybody as hard as I could, so he gave me that name.
Most surprising/embarrassing song on your iPhone: 'Set It Off' by Strafe
Two words to describe you on the field: Tough and aggressive
Two words to describe you off the field: Reliable and loyal
Best advice you've ever gotten: Control what you can control.
Favorite ice cream flavor: Cookie dough
Mountains or beach? Mountains in the fall, beach in the summertime
Favorite sporting moment from your time here at CSU: Oh, man. I have a ton. Number one has got to be winning the Big South Conference. Number two is definitely our win over Appalachian State my redshirt-freshman year at The Rock, that was huge. Number three is our most recent win over Coastal Carolina with a blocked extra point in double overtime, it was crazy.
What do you want to do when you graduate? Hopefully, I can continue to play. If that's not the case, I've thought about joining the Air Force and maybe getting into coaching.
Favorite TV show: Parks and Recreation
Place you would most like to visit: I really want to go on a tour of Europe.
Favorite sport to play/watch outside of football: Football is always my favorite sport to watch, but my favorite sport to play outside of football is probably golf.
Do you have any superstitions or pre-game rituals?
I clean my locker before each game. I take everything out of the bottom; I fold everything, organize it and get everything looking nice and pretty. I just think of it like before I go to work I want my space to be in order and looking good.
If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Back home, there's a Mexican restaurant with a signature platter that comes with chicken, steak, shrimp, rice, mushrooms and peppers with cheese on it. It's a little bit of everything.
If you were a superhero, what superpower would you have?
Well, my favorite superhero is Thor, so if I could just duplicate Thor's powers, that's what it would be.
What are your hobbies outside of football? I like hunting, fishing, golfing and hanging out with my wife. She likes to do most of those things with me, so that's fun.
If you could go back in time, what decade would you travel to?
I think growing up in the 80's would be awesome.
CSU enters Saturday's matchup with an overall record of 3-2 and a 1-0 record in the Big South. Austell says his biggest priority on the field is being as good as he possibly can be for his team and to dominate during each performance.
"I want to be as consistent as possible," Austell commented. "This is my fourth year starting in the same position, offensive line, so it's my job to be that rock. It's also important for me to be there for the other guys if they have any questions about plays. I want to be a reliable source they can come to."
Despite tomorrow's contest marking the first game of any kind in three weeks for the Bucs, Austell has complete confidence in his team.
"I think we are going to get back on the train," Austell said. " I think there are few teams in the FCS that can stop us when we are playing at our best."