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For Tavon Austin, "Crucial Catch" Weekend is a reminder of why he plays

The veteran wide receiver surprised many when he signed with the Jaguars -- and then made the team. But Austin is on a mission to honor his mother.

If "a picture is worth a thousand words," then Tavon Austin could write multiple books. 

But we're not talking about photos of his four-touchdown performance in the 2012 Orange Bowl. Or his All-Rookie Team season with the St. Louis Rams in 2013. Instead, when Tavon Austin thinks of his decade-plus football career, it's an image of his mother that comes to mind.

"My mother doesn't miss any of my games," the Jaguars wide receiver explained after practice recently. "You see, my mother was a track star. She would run up and down the sidelines; I'm going down one sideline, and she's running along the other sideline, right beside me."

In Pee Wee Football. In high school. To this day.

But for the last year-plus, Austin's mother, Cathy Greene, hasn't been able to attend any of his games. That is partially due to COVID-19 fan restrictions. Austin spent the 2020 season with the Green Bay Packers, who did not allow fans into Lambeau Field until the postseason. But it was also due to Cathy's fight with cancer. Tavon and Cathy were no strangers to cancer: his grandmother, Louann, is a cancer survivor. 

"Sometimes she got down on herself, but then she sees the soldier she raised in me," Austin said. "So, I gotta give that energy right back to her."

He'll pay it forward to Cathy this Sunday. Now cancer-free, she is in Jacksonville and will be at the Jaguars-Titans game, Austin's first home game on the active 53-man roster for the Jaguars. 

It also happens to be "Crucial Catch" Weekend across the league, as NFL teams honor those who are fighting and have fought cancer. 

"That was one of the main reasons I played again: so [Cathy] could come to the game and take a picture with her baby boy -- and so that my baby daughter could come to the game, and [we could all] take a picture with my daughter."

A new picture. And one that means just as much -- if not more. 

Now on his fifth team, many wondered if the former first-rounder would hang up his cleats this off-season. Injuries derailed his career at times. He was traded from the team that drafted him (the Rams) to the Dallas Cowboys. He was released by the San Francisco 49ers at the start of the 2020 season. 

While the Jaguars are 0-4 and Austin spent the first three weeks of the season on Injured Reserve with a hamstring injury, his story is one of the bright spots of the 2021 season. He signed with the team August 6, a week-plus into Training Camp. He was one of five wide receivers to make the initial, 53-man roster, beating out plenty of players who had been in Jacksonville all summer.

"My main goal was just to make the team. Then, all the coaches and Coach Meyer put me in a position to win. That's what I've been missing the last three or four years of my career. 

"Then, D.J. [Chark] went down [with an ankle injury]. I thought I was just going to be the spark. Now, I'm definitely in the rotation. I'm just trying to make some plays and help us get some wins."

And above all else: make his mother proud. 

"It's just the type of person that she raised me to be. I'm tough. I'm not backing down from nobody. So, why would [we] back down from cancer?"