Miles Austin embraces role as mentor

SAN ANTONIO -- The names fly out of Miles Austin's mouth.

"Terry Glenn, T.O., Pat Crayton, Terrance Copper, J.R. Tolver, Sam Hurd, Jamaica Rector, uhhh, Skyler Green," Austin said, reciting the Dallas Cowboys wide receivers when he arrived as an undrafted free agent in 2006 out of Monmouth.

Somehow he forgot Damarius Bilbo and LaShaun Ward.

Six years later, Austin is the only one of that bunch still with the Cowboys.

And while Austin is not the oldest wide receiver on the roster -- Jesse Holley and Titus Ryan have him by a few months -- he is the most accomplished, with youngsters Dez Bryant, Dwayne Harris and Kevin Ogletree looking at him the way he looked at Glenn, Terrell Owens and Crayton.

Questions that were once reserved for the more experienced wideouts in the room are now being asked to Austin.

"This is our team," said Austin, 27. "This is the only team I've played on, so not only is it an obligation as a man just to help them but it's an obligation to help this team out. I want to win. We want to win. For that to happen we need to have everybody on the same page doing the same things. We can't have people running the wrong routes and things like that. That affects all of us."

This is how the NFL works, with players handing down knowledge gained from predecessors to another set of players, like a chain in a neverending fence.

As training camp has unfolded inside the Alamodome over the past week, Austin has used the meeting room and practice field to deliver his message. He will point out different ways to get off the line of scrimmage, how to slightly adjust a route to move a defensive back off a spot or the non-verbal communication with a quarterback.

There is a subtlety to the position that young players just don't know yet.

He might deliver his message with some of the sarcasm he heard from Todd Haley, his wide receivers coach as a rookie, with some of the positive reinforcement he got from his second position coach, Ray Sherman, and the attention to detail of his new coach, Jimmy Robinson.

"Miles, I think, as a guy helping Dez making his way a little bit is a good thing," head coach Jason Garrett said.

There is a benefit to the Cowboys and to Austin from him being the sage in the room. Because he is being so closely watched, he has to be more exact in what he is doing to set that proper example.

"I'm learning from them," Austin said. "I see the way they do things and I see either a way not to do it or find another way to do it."

The on-field result has been a fast start to Austin's camp a year after he was wondering if he would be a Cowboy beyond 2010. That question was answered before the season opener when he signed a six-year extension worth $54 million, but Austin's approach has not changed.

A year ago the talk was a Hollywood relationship with Kim Kardashian and his ascent from undrafted free agent to Pro Bowler. While he still has some of the trappings of the NFL life, he might be more serious in his approach than ever.

Over the past two seasons, Austin has caught 150 passes for 2,361 yards and 18 touchdowns. Those numbers rank him 14th, fifth and tied for fifth respectively in the NFL even if it's said that 2010 -- 69 catches, 1,041 yards and seven TDs -- was not a good year for him.

"To say I don't have to worry about anything, no, I'm always going in like I'm trying to make the team," Austin said. "I don't care what the situation is contract-wise or anything like that. I'm going to be hustling and trying to work harder than everybody. If you speak to my coaches and teammates, they'll tell you the same thing. This is all from the foundation set my rookie year."

Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.