By Jennifer Hill / ETSU Assistant Director of Communications
Austin Herink believes in leaving things better than he found them. That’s what the redshirt junior quarterback for the Buccaneer football team is working hard to do for East Tennessee State University.
Herink, who transferred to ETSU three years ago to be part of the new football team, wants to have a positive impact on the university both now and in the future, just like he did for Cleveland (Tenneseee) High School.
“My buddies and I made a lot of positive changes at the high school I went to, and now they’ve got new athletic facilities. That school’s kind of on the up and up, and it’s fun to sit back and watch that,” he said. “I think that with the new program starting up here, the class I’m in has been given the unique task to set the culture for this football program. We’ve all felt a special duty to act the right way off the field, in the classroom. Treat people with respect, and stay attentive in class to make a positive impact on the university and a good impression on the faculty, because we want those people to support us.
“And also, when I leave ETSU and look back, I would like to be someone about whom they say, ‘I’d like to have that guy come back and talk – look at all the cool and exciting things he’s doing and positive changes he’s making in the world.’ I hope one day to make a decent amount of money and be able to give back to ETSU and continue to make it a place that’s on the rise.”
Herink hopes to do that through work in the field of athletics. He started out as an accounting major, but soon changed directions.
“I enjoyed accounting and made pretty good grades in it,” he said, “but I had this epiphany during the football season last year that I could do accounting, but it’s not really what I want to do for the rest of my life. So I switched over to sport management and feel like that suits my skills better.”
Herink, an academic senior, will graduate with his bachelor’s degree in sport management in December and has already started taking graduate-level classes toward a master’s degree in the field, planning to remain at ETSU for his final year of eligibility to play football for the Buccaneers.
After that, Herink’s options are open, but his career might end up being something he never pictured himself doing.
“I’ve thought about being a coach,” he said. “My whole life, I’ve kind of wanted to avoid that route, just because I didn’t want to be the stereotypical football player who goes to coach afterward. But I’ve seen how coaches affect people’s lives in such a positive way, so that’s really intriguing for me.
“I’ve also thought about player personnel in professional football – maybe being a professional scout and working my way up to the front office. Another field I’ve thought about is athletic administration. I’ve interned here with Scott Carter (who will become ETSU’s director of Intercollegiate Athletics in September) over the summer, and that’s something that’s piqued my interest. I feel like whichever road I go down, the decision will be clear for me and I’ll make the most of it.”
His experience as a Buccaneer quarterback will benefit Herink no matter which career path he chooses. That’s a leadership role he has grown into quickly after coming to ETSU’s new program following one year with the established program at Middle Tennessee State.
“I took a lot from my experience there and tried to translate some of that into ETSU football,” he said. “I think the biggest part is being comfortable with who you are. There’s plenty of great quarterbacks out there to look at and model yourself after, but at the end of the day, you have to be yourself and be genuine. You get more and more comfortable each and every day, each time you go out to play.”
Herink is proud of the progress the Buccaneers have made over the past two years, and hopes to carry that forward this week as the team begins its third season on Sept. 2 in the university’s new football stadium, taking on the Limestone College Saints.
“This year, we want to improve off last season and try not to get caught up with goals and numbers – this many wins and things like that. I just want to be really focused on the process and getting better each and every day – having a purpose every day I go to workouts and practice and meetings, and trying to get one percent better each and every day.”
When he’s not on the field or in the classroom, Herink enjoys spending time with friends, hiking, yoga and reading. He says he’s really interested in history, specifically the early 1960s and the Kennedy administration, and has probably read over 10 books on the late John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy.