Austin Jensen is getting better.
That’s the official statement out of Florida Atlantic University, after Jensen, a standout linebacker at Manatee who plays safety with the Owls, suffered a broken pelvis and a fractured skull Saturday in a car accident.
Howard Schnellenberger, FAU’s head coach, told FAUOwlaccess.com he is confident Jensen can make a full recovery.
I hope so. And it has nothing to do with Jensen’s exploits on the football field.
Personally, I don’t care if Jensen ever plays the game again, and it’s not because I think he’s a bad player.
I just think he’s an even better person.
I’ve talked to plenty of athletes over the past 10 years, from seasoned professionals to baby-faced Little Leaguers.
And Austin Jensen is easily one of my favorites.
As much fun as it was watching him play — who could forget that night at Punta Gorda Charlotte in 2006 when he blocked a punt, caught his own deflection and scored a touchdown in helping Manatee win a district title — it was even more of a treat chatting with him after a practice.
I remember what he said earlier in ’06, days after Manatee head coach Joe Kinnan’s mother passed away and one of Manatee’s players, Jerome Miller, was severely injured in a motorcycle accident.
“As soon as all that bad stuff compiled ... you’ve just got to sit there and realize how unimportant football is,” Jensen said, “and how much you have to appreciate things that you have.”
I know grown men who don’t have that much perspective. And this wasn’t coming from a kid who loafed through practices and didn’t see any game time Friday nights.
Jensen was the emotional center of a defense that led the Hurricanes to consecutive state semifinals in 2005 and ’06, making a pair of Class 5A all-state first teams and earning a Division I scholarship.
He slipped into the defensive backfield as expected when he went to college and totaled 11 tackles for the Owls last season. Will he get to suit up for the Owls again? Maybe. Maybe not. The important thing, however, is he recovers.
During his time at Manatee, Jensen was respected by opponents and admired by coaches and teammates, the latter of whom voted him a captain in ’06, a year in which the Hurricanes were stocked with quality kids.
“That guy is just pure goodness,” said Manatee assistant coach Steve Gulash, who worked with Jensen in the weight room during college breaks.
Hopefully, Jensen keeps progressing, keeps getting better and tackles this bout of misfortune as if it were an incoming running back.
Hopefully, he’ll get back on a football field.
Most importantly, however, he gets to get on with his life.
When it comes to Austin Jensen, that’s something we’ll all need to be rooting for, regardless of who you root for on Friday night.