Austin Mack came into this season knowing that it would be his last opportunity to leave his mark as a Buckeye and also his last chance to show that he was ready for a professional career.
For most players, this would be the time that they would want to post their best numbers. Mack, who has posted 50 total receptions the last two seasons, only has seven catches for 72 yards in four games this season. That number is lower than anyone expected, but Mack also knows he doesn’t necessarily need statistics and numbers to leave a legacy or to have an impact on the team this season.
For instance, he graded out as a Champion in the first three games of the season. And there are plenty of plays that don’t show up in the box score, like a touchdown reception last week that was called back because of a holding call on the offensive line.
Mack may have been disappointed by the play, but he knows he doesn’t need that touchdown on his stat sheet for validation.
“It sucks, but I mean it’s on film,” Mack said. “It’s the luck of the draw, but you can’t just dwell over those moments. So you just hope for your next one to come so you can try and get your hands on the next one.”
Last year after four games, Mack had 15 receptions for 205 yards. This year, KJ Hill leads the team with 15 receptions and Binjimen Victor leads the team with 242 yards receiving. Mack already knows he can produce on the stat sheet because he did it last year, but numbers aren’t the only measurement of a player’s contributions.
While he wants to and expects to post increased numbers moving forward, Austin Mack is also relying on the examples set by other Buckeye wideouts who have come before him. He is following in their respective paths as proof that a large number of catches isn’t necessary for a successful career and a bright future.
“It’s hard not get frustrated,” Mack said. “Especially for me being a last-year-guy, you know you’re not going to come around many opportunities. But it’s to stay humble. It’s to know that Terry [McLaurin] only had 35 catches last year. To stay in your lane and know that it’s a plan and it’s a process. Trust the plan. Whatever happens just make sure I’m doing everything I can properly to be in the right spot.”
McLaurin’s example is a good one for anybody to remember. The most catches he ever had in a game at Ohio State was five, and he only did that three times. He finished with 75 career catches as a Buckeye and was drafted in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He quickly won a starting job for the Washington Redskins. In three games as a rookie, he has posted 16 receptions for 257 yards and three touchdowns. This past week he became the first player in NFL history to record at least five receptions and a touchdown in the first three games of a career.
Now seeing McLaurin’s success in the NFL, Mack strives to follow in his footsteps.
“I mean it’s great. It’s just testimony,” Mack said. “He’s a guy that’s worked really hard every single week, so for him to go through his struggles and go through his time he did here and see that and now see his successes in the NFL I’m extremely happy and I know that in due time hopefully I can go that same path.”
Mack also acknowledged that it only takes one big game to make a difference. Former Buckeye and current Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Noah Brown’s 2016 game at Oklahoma where he recorded five receptions for 72 yards and four touchdowns was a game that in itself changed the trajectory of Brown’s college and professional career.
Mack uses Brown’s and McLaurin’s stories to remind him that things can still work out.
“Ultimately, I’m at Ohio State so I have the platform,” he said. “It just takes a ‘Noah Brown game’ for instance. I mean it just takes one moment, one game for you to change your career because we do have that platform.”
For now, Mack is just focusing on his play and what he can control.
“But at the end of the day it’s what is my role?” he said. “How can I make sure that as a leader, as a blocker, as a guy who if the ball is thrown to Ben [Victor] am I aways open? As long as I look as clean as I can be on film, I know ultimately my potential — and even if the stats don’t look as good as they do — I know I can better myself and hopefully I’ll get a shot at the next level.”