“I think it's more luck than anything. Did I think he was a good player? Yes. Did I know all this? No.”
Turns out Hays was hurt in his junior season, which is when players are most regularly noticed, leading to commitments the following summer.
As a senior, Hays produced, turning 55 receptions into 1,060 yards and 14 touchdowns for a Reagan team that advanced to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs. He earned Class 5A All-State notice by the San Antonio Express-News, yet scant notice from major college recruiters, except Monken.
“If you're looking for wow plays, guys like that don't make wow plays,” Monken said. “They just make a lot of really good plays.
“When you're not a wow player, your highlight tape just shows some nice things. But you still need good players.”
So far, Hays has been good.
Lately, he's getting more snaps and more opportunities. He had just one catch against TCU, but it went for 41 yards and set up a score. Hays caught a 54-yard touchdown pass against Kansas State. And in last week's win over West Virginia, among three receptions was a 36-yard grab in the fourth quarter that led to a scoring drive giving OSU a two-touchdown lead.
Josh Stewart, the Cowboys latest go-to guy at receiver, can relate after he was considered a fringe prospect as a freshman a year ago.
“Austin is one of those guys like me, got offered last,” Stewart said. “His was last second. To be one of those guys with something to prove coming in, I think that's where he's at, like I was, with something always to prove.
“He's a good player. And he practices hard every day. For him to be right next to me, lined up right there, I have a lot of confidence in him.”
Monken's confidence is paying off.
“It's been a blessing,” Monken said. “Somehow guys ended up going other places, opening up a scholarship, and we got him here.
“I was convinced he could play for us. I was just trying like heck to get him here in some way, shape or form. It just turned out that we could.”