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Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Updated: March 15, 2:39 PM ET
Music an escape for Giants' Austin

By Ohm Youngmisuk
ESPNNewYork.com

Marvin Austin knows just how quickly football can disappear from his life.

The defensive tackle hasn't played football for the past two seasons. First, an NCAA agent scandal ended his 2010 season at North Carolina before a pectoral injury in the 2011 preseason wiped out his rookie season with the Giants.

"I can't describe this feeling," Austin said of not being able to play football the past two years. "When I couldn't play last season, I had to find something to keep me sane."

So, before he's been able to collect his first professional sack, Austin has begun tackling his other great passion -- music. With some of the free time he's had the past two years, Austin has begun the process of getting involved in the music business and preparing for life after football.

Austin recently was one of 20 current and former players selected to participate in the first NFL Business of Music Boot Camp, a weeklong program directed by NFL Player Engagement and New York University's Clive Davis Institute in the Tisch School of the Arts.

Austin, who has a music studio in the basement of his New Jersey apartment and is starting an entertainment company (True For Life Entertainment) with two of his friends, received invaluable professional expertise on many aspects of the music industry.

Football is still his biggest priority, and he said he's dying to get onto the field for his first regular-season game as a Giant. Austin said he recently began bench pressing again and is strengthening his pectoral muscle, which he injured in the preseason last year. He says he will be ready for his first full offseason of training activities with the team after last year's rookie class had its official offseason training with teams canceled due to the lockout.

The 2011 second-round pick is eager to prove himself in training camp again after having an impressive rookie camp by most accounts from veteran teammates last summer.

But Austin, 23, also understands that football is not guaranteed. He has learned that the hard way after he was suspended for the 2010 season and later dismissed from the Tar Heels for his involvement in an NCAA investigation into improper benefits and academic misconduct.

He fell to the Giants in the second round and then suffered his season-ending injury in the second preseason game of the year, against the Bears. Some teammates had raved about how strong the 6-foot-2, 312-pound defensive tackle was in camp.

"All I want to do as of now is play football," said Austin, who sat in on football meetings while rehabbing last season. "It was a bittersweet thing for me, being out of football for a whole other year, you got to deal with all the things that people are going to say and stuff. But everything happens for a reason. Last year before the draft, I went in the second round but went to one of the best football teams. And then [critics] say, 'Can we trust this guy?' I go to the biggest media market in the country where the most eyes are going to be on me. I am going to go out there and bust my butt to perform.

"But at the same time, I am not an idiot," he added. "I understand this game is a young man's game and one day I will get old."

When he wasn't training or rehabbing, Austin used music as a release. About a year and a half ago, Austin began thinking about starting a production/entertainment group with two of his friends from college. He grew up in Washington, D.C., listening to go-go music -- a local percussion-based genre of funk and R&B -- and began playing the drums at a young age.

He loves hip-hop but also listens to a lot of jazz. Before games, he listens to the Pat Metheny Group's "The Way Up."

The defensive tackle was well aware of teams' shying away from him in the draft because of character concerns from the college scandal. So he often stayed in his basement studio for hours working on beats.

He began to think about investing in music for the future. While some young players think only about football and their careers, Austin had a lot of time to think about life outside of football.

"The last thing that most are thinking about is what my true career looks like post-playing experience," said former defensive back Troy Vincent, who is now the NFL's vice president of player engagement. "When you are at a young age, you are not thinking about career paths. There is an expiration date to the body."

So when Austin heard that the NFL was having its first music boot camp, he meticulously prepared for the application process, enlisting the help of a friend in theater and one of his financial advisers, and hiring a marketing company to help him with his two essays and application portfolio.

Vincent said the NFL received about 120 applications for the program, more than it has received for any of its other programs such as the Broadcast Boot Camp, Business Management and Entrepreneurial Program, and the Pro Hollywood Boot Camp.

"We just got finished meeting with Ryan Leslie, Clive Davis, Spike Lee," Austin said recently at the camp. "It's a who's who in the music and film industry. My passion about music and wanting to get into the industry and learn about it from all different angles from executive producing to publishing to distribution, this is a golden opportunity for me. So I took the application process as seriously as I was preparing for the [NFL scouting] combine."

Experts such as Davis (Sony BMG chief creative officer) and Leslie (a Grammy-nominated record producer/singer and NYU's artist in residence) gave players like Austin, Torry Holt and Brandon Lloyd priceless advice on how to invest, what to watch for and how to use social media as a tool in music.

"I'm sure for every success story, there's got to be 100 horror stories," said Leslie, who was nominated for Best Contemporary R&B Album in the 2011 Grammy Awards. "[But] I think it is realistic for anyone. I got into music, and I was broke. To take an example like mine, a very passionate aspiring Harvard grad who had no money, and show them how.

"Or even look at my most successful album to date, Cassie's album ["Cassie"], we had a number one record off of that album," Leslie added about the album he produced. "The entire record was made in a one-bedroom apartment in Harlem."

Leslie has experience working with athletes. He started a Mentorship through Partnership program that helps guide and direct athletes such as Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings in the business of music and how to take advantage of social media as a tool as well.

"I am a blueprint to successfully take a minimal investment, maybe $15,000 in a personal home recording studio setup, and with the right perseverance, time and persistence, you can follow your hobby and eventually turn your passion into your profession," Leslie said. "Anyone who pursues a passion with that type of vigor [like Austin has shown] is someone to watch out for."

Music is the future, though. The present for Austin is football, and he wants to be a hit on the field for the first time since 2009.

In some ways, the defending Super Bowl champs might feel like they'll have an extra first-round pick in camp since they felt Austin was a first-round talent last year before he lost his rookie season to injury.

"I am going to put my best foot forward," said Austin, who could be a part of the defensive tackle rotation this season. "As in music, you don't make a record and say it is going to be a hit record. I just go out there and be the best defensive tackle I can be. If that is the defensive tackle they choose to start, that is who it is."