TE David Ausberry makes a catch. Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Raiders drafted David Ausberry out of the University of Southern California in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Ausberry came to the Raiders as a wide receiver who totaled 64 receptions for 700 yards and seven touchdowns during his college career. But the Raiders immediately converted the 6'4", 258-pound receiver into a tight end.
Due to last year's lockout and no off-season, that conversion didn't happen until the first day of training camp. Learning on the fly, Ausberry picked up as much as he could as fast as he could. Heading into his second season and participating in another training camp, Ausberry is beginning to feel more comfortable in his position. "I didn't know I was going to be a tight end until I got to camp last year," said Ausberry. "A 3-point stance does feel a lot more natural and trying to get off the ball and get your hands fit in the right place just so you can make a good block. It's a process and we're still working and I feel good."
Ausberry is also able to improve quickly because of the high number of reps he takes each practice. "First of all, we're a short-handed group, there's only five of us and we're going every other play so we have to be mentally tough and physically tough," Ausberry explained. "So you just have to be in there and be willing to put in the effort and grind and be confident in what we do."
He is also finding it easier to make progress on and off the field having had a season to mostly observe. "I didn't really get too much playing time last year so I got a chance to sit back and learn the ropes on how to be a pro," explained Ausberry. "You have to take care of your body, you have to do the extra work, you have to do the little things because they do matter at the end of the day. I think having a chance to sit behind a lot of guys and seeing a lot of the vets go through daily NFL life helped me a lot as far as my development."
The new coaching staff is making it easy for Ausberry to improve. "The new coaching staff, they're throwing a lot at us right now, but it's training camp, that's what it's supposed to be like," said Ausberry. "Our tight ends coach [Mark Hutson] is doing a great job breaking things down for us and making everything simple so we can play fast."
Ausberry is able to feel right at home with the Raiders, playing with five USC alumni. "It's also a lot of fun to see guys in different phases in life," said Ausberry. "I got my guy Brandon Carswell, I met him when he was still in high school. And to play with him in college and then leave and then him being back up here with me, it's fun to see his development as a player. Same with Nick Howell and Alex Parsons, so it's fun seeing these guys and seeing each other grow up a little bit."
The second-year player is also catching passes from two former Trojans – QBs Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. "I met those guys when I was in high school," said Ausberry. "These are Heisman Trophy winners and I got to workout with them a little bit when I was in college, so I was living on top of the world. It's pretty fun to have close knit guys on the team like that. I think it helps with camaraderie and just being close to one another. And those are our quarterbacks so we have to take care of each other."
Although he is able to channel his USC playing days, Ausberry is focused on his time with the Silver and Black. "The Raiders have a lot of history and we're trying to get back to where we need to be," said Ausberry. "And we need to be back in the playoffs, get ourselves into that tournament, and put ourselves among the elite. We have a lot of talent and a lot of vets that deserve it. We have what it takes, so we have to just get through this grind and make it happen."
Playing for the Raiders and in the NFL is fun for Ausberry. "I think it's fun because I'm the first person in my family to get to play in the league so I have a lot of little cousins that have the chance to see somebody on TV," Ausberry described. "I get to go home and my little cousins, my five-, six-year-old cousins say, 'oh, I saw you on TV.' So it's pretty cool for them to experience that. If I can provide that for them, I'm going to try to play as long as I can. It's pretty fun for the family and friends to see me play."
Ausberry is excited to, not just play for his family and friends, but play for Raider Nation as well. "I'll be excited," said Ausberry. "We have to stay focused and keep that common goal in mind and we have to win and try to be assignment perfect and do what it takes. We have it and we have to put it out on the field."
Ausberry believes the 2012 Raiders have what it takes to be successful and wants Raider Nation to know it. "We have a lot of fire power and we're ready to use it, keep your eyes open and we'll deliver."