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Lineman on growing up near Ferguson

8/21/2014

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Rodney Austin is listed on the roster of the Detroit Lions as hailing from North Carolina. It actually was the second state he lived in, and it became home to him.

It is not, though, where Austin grew up. For the first 14 years of his life, Austin lived in and around St. Louis, first closer to the downtown in the Forest Park area of the city. Then he moved down the road from Hazelwood East High School, where he would have gone had his family not left for North Carolina when he was in the middle of eighth grade.

Hazelwood East is eight miles from Ferguson, Missouri, where violence and protests have escalated following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9. Training camp and trying to make the Detroit Lions roster have been Austin’s main focus, but he can’t help but notice what is going on in his original hometown.

“I catch glimpses of it,” Austin said. “I’m hearing more and more details about the stories every day and it’s just ... it’s really frustrating.

“It kind of scares you to think that things like that still go on in this country.”

Austin said the protests and violence reminded him of part of the reason his parents chose to move from St. Louis, where he still has family closer to downtown. Austin said there were more job opportunities in North Carolina for his parents, which helped push the move.

At the time, Austin didn’t want to make the move that began with a 15-hour car ride. When he moved there, though, North Carolina grew on him. He went to college in the state at Elon and that helped land him in the NFL, where he is a reserve offensive lineman.

But there are times he remembers his time in Missouri -- and with the nightly protests near where he grew up, he can’t help but think about it more often.

“Just being a part of the African-American community and seeing people be shot down, it doesn’t make you feel good to see, I’ll tell you that much,” Austin said. “When is it going to stop, you know?

“You see things like the Trayvon Martin situation, where he got gunned down and stuff like that, you never know where it’s going to happen next and you hope it never happens again but somehow it always comes back around.”