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By Travis Lazarczyk, Staff Writer
Tom Austin, the head football coach at Colby College for the past 15 years, is thinking. He shifts in the big, blue chair in his office, crossing his legs, trying to remember if he's ever won a coach of the year award while guiding the fortunes of the White Mules. He takes his hand off his chin and places it on the chair's arm rest.
"You know, I don't think I have," Austin said.
After guiding Colby to a 7-1 record and a share of the first New England Small College Athletic Conference championship this fall, Austin's peers have ended the wait. Austin was not only chosen as the NESCAC coach of the year, but the Gridiron Club of Boston has selected him as the Division II/III Coach of the Year. The Gridiron Club of Boston will present Austin with his award at its College Football Awards Night, Dec. 6, in Randolph, Mass.
"It's certainly very flattering to be recognized by your peers," said Austin. "It's an equally significant statement about the kids in our program and our coaches. This is more than a one-man operation."
It's not surprising that Austin had to think for a moment to recall if he had ever received similar honors. Since coming to Colby from Bridgton Academy, the coach has been more concerned with building a program the school can be proud of rather than individual glory.
"I'd been at Bridgton for 14 years. We had some very good players there," said Austin. "But at Bridgton they're only there for one year. I reached the point where I wanted to build a program."
Austin has tried to impart on his players that football is just one aspect of the college experience.
"(The players) aren't going off to the NFL," he said. "They bring a wonderful sense of priority."
This year's team completed one of the best turnarounds in Colby football history. As freshmen, the Class of '01 suffered through an 0-8 season. When they were sophomores, the record improved to 2-6, and to 3-5 as juniors. This year, Colby's seven wins were enough to share the NESCAC title with Amherst and Middlebury, and Austin won his 10th Colby-Bates-Bowdoin championship.
"We're real happy for the coaches," said linebacker Drew Johnson, who served as a co-captain this year. "Their hard work paid off, believing in us even though we didn't have winning records the first three seasons."
"Each team has its own personality," said Austin. "This team was special because this group of seniors provided such direction. The legacy of the Class of '01 will be to demonstrate what can happen when everyone buys in."
With the retirement of Middlebury head coach Mickey Heinecken, Austin now stands as the dean of NESCAC coaches. He has compiled a record of 54-65-1 at Colby, and doesn't think he'll say goodbye to Mayflower Hill soon.
"I take it year by year," said Austin. "My wife tells me I've never grown up. I get a great joy working with young people. It's very fulfilling."
Austin's first 15 years at Colby will be official when the team holds its end of the season dinner on Saturday. Already the coach is preparing for next year, calling recruits and working with the returning players. There are two titles to defend.
"The kids here are a delight to work with," said Austin. "They come willing to do whatever you ask. You can't ask for a better coaching situation."
The Colby Difference: The Inauguration of William D. Adams
Nuclear Fiction: Daniel Traister '63 Delves Into the Fiction of World War II
The Hot Zone and the Cold War: Frank Malinoski '76 Investigates Biological Warfare
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College Colby Magazine 4181
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