CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Tavon Austin seriously lined up as a running back against Oklahoma this past season, it was the first time he'd done so since playing high school ball.
All the West Virginia University senior did that day was set a school record with 344 yards on 21 carries in a wild 50-49 loss.
Austin, primarily a receiver, went on to smash WVU and Big 12 single-game all-purpose records with 572 yards - 6 short of an NCAA high mark.
Oddly, it was mostly overlooked nationally. On Thursday, though, Austin was awarded the 2012 Paul Hornung Award as the most versatile player in major college football.
The announcement was made by the Louisville (Ky.) Sports Commission and Paul Hornung.
"I am honored and humbled to be selected as the winner of the prestigious Paul Hornung Award," said Austin via a release. "Whether I am on the field as a receiver, in the backfield or as a returner, I have high expectations for myself, and I have always tried to use my versatility to help my team be successful. I want to thank my coaches and teammates for helping me achieve this honor."
The award caps a prestigious season for Austin, who, perhaps astonishingly, accounted for 2,910 yards, 44.6 percent of WVU's total yards in 2012. He scored 104 points, which was 20 percent of that put up by the Mountaineers.
At 5-foot-9, 174 pounds, Austin excelled throughout the 2012 season as one of the nation's most prolific all-purpose offensive and special-teams players during the Mountaineers' inaugural season in the Big 12.
He was one of two players in the nation with more than 500 yards in three different statistical categories (rushing, receiving and kick returns) and one of three players in the nation with 110 or more catches.
Austin also was a first-team Associated Press and American Football Coaches Association All-America pick and a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award.
The Hornung award is presented and sponsored by Texas Roadhouse.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvin...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.