UNSUNG LEADER: Austin Tallant receives October award for leadership

UNSUNG LEADER: Austin Tallant receives October award for leadership

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Senior safety Austin Tallant, a member of the Tennessee Tech football team who is now in the final month of a very successful career, is the winner of the Unsung Leader Award for October, a monthly honor presented by the TTU thletics Department.

With just three games remaining in his career, Tallant's numbers have piled up since he became a starter in the first week of his freshman season in the Golden Eagle secondary. He enters the Homecoming game Saturday against Southeast Missouri ranked in the Top 10 in career tackles and is the current team leader in career tackles-for-loss.

Still, those big numbers aren't the reason Tallant was slected for the October award. It is his leadership behind the scenes, both on the football field and in the Athletic Performance Center, that netted him a nomination from Casey Kramer, TTU Director of Athletic Performance.

"Austin is the true definition of toughness," Kramer said. "He brings the same focused, enthusiastic attitude to every game and every workout. He works incredibly hard behind-the-scenes to improve his skills and phyicaly ability, and he passes that work ethic on to his teammates."

The soft-spoken Tallant says he's not a big "talk" guy, so he's not the one providing leadership with his speeches or words.

"I try to lead by example more than with words," Tallant says. "I'm not big on self-praise or drawing attention to myself. I just believe that I need to do the right thing in everything I do, and I appreciate that the younger players see that and learn from my example."

“Austin is a trustworthy individual that is highly dependable," Kramer added. "All young student-athletes should notice Austin and what he means to Tennessee Tech.”

The Unsung Leader Award was created this year to recognize leadership by student-athletes, with an award to be presented each month throughout the academic year. A year ago, Tech’s student-athletes and staff attended a leadership seminar, and Director of Athletics Mark Wilson wanted to find ways to keep student-athletes motivated toward following the ideals learned at the event.

“The seminar allowed student-athletes to learn, interact and discuss traits of leadership, and in turn we see our student-athletes demonstrating those traits every day,” Wilson said. “This award is a way to recognize that leadership, which many times isn’t reflected in headlines or other ways. It’s quiet leadership, behind-the-scenes leadership, that makes everybody better.

“These young men and women are leaders, pure-and-simple, not doing the right thing for recognition but to make themselves, their teammates, and their teams better,” Wilson said. 

“Austin is the epitome of what a Tennessee Tech student-athlete should be. Heis mature beyond his years, he has never missed or been late to a workout, and he goes above and beyond to improve humself,” said Kramer. "He is a married, family man who is an outsanding example for all of our younger student-athletes. He never makes excuses, and he's the most coachable kid I have ever coached."

An example of Tallant's leadership came in the Golden Eagle football game at Tennessee State in September, when the senior played the entire game despite fighting the flu. Tallant interepted a pass and returned it to the end zone for Tech's only points of the game.

"He plays every play, no matter how tired or beat up he might be," Kramer said.

Now considered one of the most experienced defensive players in the Ohio Valley Conference, the Alcoa, Tenn., product is in his fourth season as a starter, and has posted double figures in tackles in 14 games including three this season. He has posted 314 career tackles and continues to climb the all-time chart after getting 13 tackles against Murray State and UT Martin, and 10 last week against Eastern Illinois.

In the opening game of his true freshman season, Austin was thrust into the spotlight at the University of Iowa after a season-ending injury to projected starter Marty Jones. Tallant started every game the remainder of that year, and every game since (except one contest in 2012 that he missed entirely due to injury). If he finishes the year with starts in the remaining three games, he will tie the school record for most career starts with 44, a record set in 1991-94 by center Tracy Russell. If not for the missed game at Murray State in '12, he would be taking aim at breaking the record.

The two biggest games of his career included 17 tackles against Jacksongille State in 2012, and 16 tackles in an NCAA FCS Playoff game against Central Arkansas in 2011. One of his three career interceptions game last year at No. 21 FBS Wisconsin

Tallant was one of six student-athletes nominated for the October Unsung Leader Award, and was selected by a committee. The initial Unsung Leader Award went to senior Ellen Conti of the TTU volleyball team for September.

One student-athlete, nominated by his/her coaching staff, will be selected and recognized for exemplifying outstanding leadership qualities during the past month. The leadership can be shown on the field, in the weight room, at practice, in the classroom, in study hall, on campus, in the community, for a student club or organization..

This award honors a varsity student-athlete who has made a positive impact on their team and the Tennessee Tech community as a whole, through his or her dedication to demonstrating leadership traits, such as:
        * Keep Learning, Growing, and Improving
        * Follow Through with Excellence
        * Accomplish More than Expected
        * Inspire and Motivate Others