Pleasants signs free agent contract with Jaguars
COAL GROVE — The dream is becoming a reality.
For former Ohio University and Coal Grove Hornets’ offensive tackle Austen Pleasants the dream of playing in the NFL is at hand.
The 6-foot-7, 320-pound Pleasants signed a free agent contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday following the seven-round NFL draft.
“People have talked about it my whole life. People were always saying, ‘you’re going to be in the NFL one day.’ I never paid much mind to it Growing up, I was just wanting to play football with my friends and have a good time. That’s all it started out as,” said Pleasants.
“Once I got to college and playing that high level, I realized that I could hang with those guys and do well and it started to sink in that the NFL was a reality. And then through this season I didn’t think of it that much. Especially at Ohio, we take it one game at a time, one week at a time, one rep at a time. It’s that kind of mindset. I just kept my head down and kept working.”
And that work paid off in big dividends when he got that phone call first from Jacksonville offensive line coach George Warhop and then his agent Tony Williams who finalized the deal.
“We knew (the Jaguars) talked back and forth with my agent the whole time the draft was going on and when I got the call there was a moment of shock. It was like ‘are you serious?’ All this work has finally paid off. I still have a lot of work to do and there’s a long time before I get to play. But just the fact a kid from Coal Grove realized a dream is pretty crazy. I was shocked when I got the call from coach Hop before I knew I was going to be there for sure. Ten minutes later my agent called me and said ‘you’re a Jaguar now.’ It happened pretty fast.”
Coal Grove head football coach Jay Lucas coached Pleasants when he played for the Hornets under his father Dave Lucas. The news didn’t come as a surprise to Lucas.
“Austen is an exceptional young man,” said Lucas.
“I told him it’s great to see when you get to see a kid achieve his dreams. A lot of little boys grow up wanting to be an NFL football player and he worked hard and he earned it. He has a great work ethic. He did it himself and he did it the right way.”
Pleasants was a red-shirt senior for the Ohio Bobcats this past season and served as one of five team captains.
He capped his season by being named second team of the All-Mid-American Conference.
“All of Coal Grove is proud of him,” said Lucas. “All of Coal Grove is Jacksonville Jaguar fans tonight.”
Lucas said he talked with Pleasants before the draft and the 22-year-old lineman said Jacksonville had expressed great interest in him.
“They were high on him,” said Lucas. “He felt like there was going to be an opportunity there either through the draft or as a free agent.”
Todd Williams is very optimistic about Pleasants chances.
“I reached out to him because he’s a fantastic football player. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s got a good chance of making the roster.
“I think a lot of teams overlooked him. As we got closer to the draft, Austen’s talents at right tackle and right guard are what set him apart of other guards and tackles. What really got the teams interested was his 2018 tape because he did a lot at right tackle whereas they put him at left tackle in 2019 which is what you do with your best offensive lineman.”
Pleasants admitted that Jacksonville’s continued interest was one of the deciding reasons why he accepted the Jaguars’ offer.
“Jacksonville is the first team reaching out to me to give me a contract. I really appreciated that and we just pulled the trigger on that because they were the first one to offer a deal to me,” said Pleasants.
“And I think it’s a great place to end up There’s a lot of young players on the team and with their situation on the offensive line, it was the best place for me to go because there’s a lot of good competition and I feel I can prove myself and help out the team. I’m excited to get down there and be a Jaguar.”
Although several teams expressed an interested in Pleasants, the one key reason Williams thinks Jacksonville was a greater opportunity.
“In the NFL, he’s more suited for guard and tackle. There are a bunch good offensive linemen on the Jaguars and there were several other teams interested in signing him, but the Jaguars ended up being the best fit so that’s what we thought,” said Williams.
“He’s got a very good chance of making the roster, and if he doesn’t, he’s got a very good chance of making a practice roster and picked up by another team. But 90 guys go to camp only 53 make the roster in the NFL. They’ve also made some different rules in the NFL to expand roster for offensive linemen and expand the offensive roster on game day because of the recognized shortage of offensive linemen in the league and liability of offensive linemen.”
Because of the Coronavirus, teams weren’t able to give physicals or conduct pro days for eligible players and Pleasants fell into that category.
“I believe if Austen would have gotten his pro day and teams would have been able to give him a physical, I think he would have been drafted,” said Williams.
But what Williams thinks doesn’t mean as much as what Pleasants thinks, and the big lineman has been thinking very positive for a long time.
“When I got to the CGS (College Grid Showcase) in Dallas and Fort Worth and got around some of the best college players and get to play against some of the best college players, I realized, ‘yeah, I can do this.’ It’s still pretty surreal. It’s a long time in coming. I’m pretty happy where I’m at,” said Pleasants.
As a freshman in 2016, Pleasants made his collegiate debut in a 37-21 win over Gardner-Webb on Sept. 24.
At Coal Grove, Pleasants was a four-year started in football and he also lettered four times in both track and basketball.
Pleasants is a member of the National Honor Society and majored in physical activity and sport coaching.
He was a three-time first team All-OVC selection and was a Southeast Ohio All-District first team selection as a junior and senior, earning All-Ohio honors each season. He was a key player in three Ohio Valley Conference championships and the 2012 postseason playoff appearance.
One thing that will be different in Jacksonville as opposed to Coal Grove and Ohio University is the weather.
“That was one of the things on my list to have warm weather,” said Pleasants who recalled a late-season game when the temperature was around 14 degrees.
Pleasants was keeping himself in shape running on the Coal Grove High School football field and lifting with former teammate Jeb Jones after the school weight room was shut down due to the Coronavirus.
“I’m supposed to get an iPad in the mail this week so I can start learning the playbook and some of that stuff. Depending on when it opens up, I’ll be down there right away,” said Pleasants.
“Jeb has a little weight room set up in his garage. We used the football field until they shut it down. As long as I can run and stay in shape it’s OK. I just have to find different workouts to do.”