From outside of the program, there might have been less expected of Austin Hays than any incoming freshman at Oklahoma State last season. Hays, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound receiver from San Antonio, received the last scholarship offer in the 2013 recruiting class, only after another player decommitted.
But he found his way onto the field and ended the year with 29 catches for 394 yards and two touchdowns.
Q: What was last year like for you, from the last-minute scholarship to earning some valuable playing time?
A: It was awesome, and obviously a great experience for me. I was offered on signing day. Coach (Todd) Monken called me in the middle of the day, faxed over the letter of intent. I signed it and sent it back. I talked to coach (Kasey) Dunn over the summer, worked out and learned the offense. Then two-a-days started. I just wanted to work hard, learn the plays, catch the ball and just be somebody they could count on. With Tracy Moore getting hurt, they needed somebody to step up, and I was glad I could fill a spot and get some experience.
Did you come in with a chip on your shoulder, thinking you needed to prove yourself?
I don't think I had a chip on my shoulder, but I definitely wanted to come in and work hard. I just wanted to fit in and work hard and find my way. And I think I did.
Where do you think you would have gone to school if that offer hadn't come on signing day?
Honestly, I really don't know. I had a couple baseball offers that I was really considering. I wasn't going to sign on signing day with the offers I had. I was still 50-50 football or baseball. I had baseball offers from OSU, Texas State and a couple other places that said they'd offer if I decided I wanted to play baseball. But I always told them football was No. 1. It just didn't happen for me until the very end.
Had you considered walking on to play football somewhere?
I really didn't. Coach Monken asked me if I would before they had a scholarship open. But me and my family were iffy about it, because I had other places that wanted me and could give me scholarship money. I hadn't really considered it, but I guess it was always there in the back of my mind, because I wanted to play D-I football.
Were people — even some who know you well — surprised to see you play as big a role as you did last year?
I would think so. I'm 6-2 and nothing real special about me. I didn't weigh very much, and I still don't. I think there were definitely some people who were surprised. But people around me thought I could eventually become a player here.
Looking back on it now, how much fun was your freshman season?
It was awesome. During the season, you're so busy going to meetings and stuff, you don't really understand what's happening. Not very many people get to do what I did and play in the places I got to play. It was an awesome experience.