Teryl Austin learned the coaching ropes from savvy veterans

Posted Feb 12, 2014

New Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin says Jim Caldwell, Lloyd Carr, Ray Rhodes and Chuck Pagano helped mold him into the coach he is today

After NFL stops in Seattle, Arizona and Baltimore coaching defensive backs, Teryl Austin takes the reigns of his own NFL defense in Detroit as its new defensive coordinator.

Austin is experiencing the natural progression for a lot of up-and-coming coaches in this league. The good, young coaches take a little something from every stop they make and learn from the men they worked under.

Austin has list of coaches who helped mold him along the way and it includes the likes of Jim Caldwell, Lloyd Carr, Ray Rhodes and Chuck Pagano.

"Well, obviously Jim (Caldwell) and I go way back," Austin said at his introductory press conference last week. "Jim holds a special place in my heart because I was a young guy. I had just finished trying to play. Went to Penn State and was a GA (graduate assistant) and was just trying to learn the game from the other side. I didn't know if I was doing well or doing bad, I was just trying and he gave me an opportunity to go with him at Wake Forest.

"It wasn't easy there when we first got in. I learned and I took a lot of lumps in terms of learning and learning how to relate with guys and all those things. So, Jim obviously, he's helped me tremendously in that regard."

Teryl AustinAustin spent four years at the University of Michigan under the tutelage of then-head coach Lloyd Carr. (Photo: Michigan Photography)

Austin was the defensive backs coach at Wake Forest from 1993 to 1995 when Caldwell was the head coach. Austin moved on to coach the secondary at Syracuse University following his time at Wake Forest. He went from Syracuse to the University of Michigan in 1999, where he says working with then-Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr was one of the highlights of his career.

"I still consider him one of my better friends," Austin said of Carr. "I love talking to Lloyd, he's always got a good story for me. I might have heard them a few times, but he's always got a good story for me."

Austin spent four years at Michigan before making the leap to the NFL in 2003 with Seattle. In Seattle, Austin worked under defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes.

"Ray Rhodes was outstanding for me," he said. "The biggest thing with Ray, you could learn all kinds of scheme, you could learn that stuff, but I think Ray really taught me how you relate with the NFL player because it's different than college.

"You know ... you run across (guys) in college and you can yell at a guy, do whatever, however you do it, but it's kind of the 'my way or the highway system.' You learn that in the NFL it's not that business. It's not that way. You're dealing with grown men, so you treat them as grown men. You've got to figure out how to balance that and get them to do what you want. I think he was outstanding in that."

After spending three years with the Arizona Cardinals and then one-year as the University of Florida's defensive coordinator, Austin landed in Baltimore in 2011 as the Ravens' secondary coach. He worked under then-Baltimore defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano in 2011, before Pagano accepted the head coaching position in Indianapolis the following year.

"When I was with Chuck, and I had known Chuck for awhile, but the one thing I saw with Chuck when he was calling defenses, it didn't matter if the last one didn't work, that doesn't mean the next one won't work," Austin said. "So, he always kept an aggressive mindset and his deal was, 'Hey we're going to continue to attack until we just can't attack anymore.'

"I think that was something that I learned because sometimes we all get a little gun-shy, you call something, it doesn't work and you're afraid to go back to it. That was never his deal. He said, 'Hey, you know what? It didn't work and here's why it didn't work. Let's get it fixed and let's move on. We're still going to play this defense because it's good for us and our guys believe in it and we don't' want to show that we don't believe in something.'"

All of the stops on the road to Detroit seems to have helped mold Austin in some way, shape or form. The Lions hope those lessons translate into a defensive coordinator who's not yet done climbing the coaching ladder.