JuCo offensive lineman to join Utah State football this fall (VIDEO)
There are talents who are apparent from the start. And then there are those that take a little extra time to bloom.
Count Austin Stephens in the latter category. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound offensive center had Division I football dreams, but they took a little longer to materialize. After a year at Iowa Western, Stephens will finally get his chance at Utah State.
The Aggies got a commitment from Stephens on Tuesday, and within weeks, he's expected to come to Logan, where he'll be immediately eligible this fall.
"Everything I heard about Utah State, they're an up-and-coming program, and I really like where they're headed," he said. "I think I just bring a mentality that I like to knock heads off, I like to be tough, and I want to work hard."
Stephens will have four years to play three seasons at Utah State because unlike many junior college prospects, he was fully academically eligible out of high school. However, he was only eligible at the end of his senior year when scholarships had dried up.
So he went to Iowa Western, where he started as a freshman and grew up quickly.
"It really exposed me to a lot of things," Stephens said. "I was able to get a chance to play against better competition and learn from a bunch of guys who had more experience than me."
Stephens will probably have at least a year to learn from the sidelines with five offensive line starters returning. But playing behind two-time all-WAC center Tyler Larsen is a big plus in his book.
He met Larsen on a recent visit to Utah State, and the veteran center offered him some info on coaches, the campus and life with the Aggies. Stephens said he's eager to see what else he can learn.
"This guy's up for a Rimington Award, and could be in the NFL," he said. "He was unbelievable to be around. An opportunity to learn under his wing is something you can't get from every school."
Stephens was a first-team all-conference player for Iowa Western last fall. He had offers from Florida International and Old Dominion, among others. He's rated as a two-star prospect by Scout and Rivals.
Utah State received another commitment on Tuesday for the 2014 class, Stansbury QB/LB Chase Christiansen.
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon