Austin Is Awesome In Arena League

When I caught up with former University of Hawaii quarterback Shane Austin, he was getting ready for a cross-country drive from Ohio to New Mexico.

“It’s a long drive, but Megan and I can spend a lot of time reminiscing about Hawaii,” he tells me.

Megan Tinnin, a former Rainbow Wahine basketball star who hails from New Mexico, is Shane’s long-time girlfriend.

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Former UH quarterback Shane Austin with girlfriend Megan Tinnin (former Rainbow Wahine basketball star) after Austin led the Cleveland Gladiators to Arena League playoffs and a division title. PHOTO FROM MEGAN TINNIN

“I could challenge her to a game of Horse, but I’d never win,” he jokes.

This summer, Tinnin was in Cleveland to cheer on Austin’s amazing season in the Arena Football League. All Austin did was lead the Cleveland Gladiators to 19 wins in 21 games, including a division title, two playoff victories and a trip to the Arena Bowl.

“It was an incredible ride,” he says. “We loved the support we got from the 808 ohana.”

Austin, a California native, played sparingly for the Rainbow Warriors from 2008 to 2011, only starting a couple of games at QB during that stretch.

He says his most memorable games were a start on the road at San Jose State — “We won in overtime,” he recalls — and a late comeback in the season opener against powerful USC in 2010.

“I came in during the fourth quarter and we played really well,” he says.

Austin says his best memories of Hawaii are of “beach workouts every Friday (and) surfing. I surfed all over,” he says. “Threes at Waikiki was my favorite place, but I probably had my best day out at Turtle Bay when the waves there were perfect.”

Without much playing time in his collegiate days, Austin was a long shot to achieve his dream of playing in the NFL.

“I didn’t get any looks from NFL teams, but I did get a couple of tryouts with the CFL. I ended up hooking up with a team from the Indoor Football League,” he says.

Austin came aboard late in the 2012 season for the IFL team from Everett, Wash.

“I played the last seven games, and had to learn the playbook quickly and the rules quickly. We had fun and I was lucky enough to set some records,” he says.

The strong finish got him a look-see the next season in the more prestigious Arena Football League. He signed with the Pittsburgh Power in 2013 and started the last three games of the year, despite missing much of the season with a broken hand.

This past spring, he signed with the Gladiators, but once again appeared headed for a backup role.

“I got my break in the second game when I came in, when we were down something like 21-3 (against the Iowa Barnstormers),” he says. “We were getting smoked, but we came back and scored 35 unanswered points to win the game.”

The next week, he led another Gladiator comeback, leading to his first start of the year, in game four at the Los Angeles Kiss Arena.

“I had that date marked on my calendar because I knew it was going to be the best chance for a lot of my friends and family to see me,” he says.

Austin responded to his opportunity by tossing five touchdown passes, and the Gladiators would go on to a 17-1 regular season record under his leadership.

Two impressive playoff victories followed until fans in Cleveland, already stirred up by stories of LeBron James and Johnny Manziel, were taking notice.

“Cleveland is the rave of sports radio these days,” he says. “It was fun to be a part that conversation.”

Cleveland fell to defending champion Arizona Rattlers in Arena Bowl XXVII, but Austin’s future still looks bright at age 25.

“The NFL has always been the goal,” he says. “It’s all about getting the opportunity and taking that first step.”

With Hawaii always on his mind, Shane Austin is definitely on his way.

senatorbobhogue@yahoo.com