Team captain Austin Trammell broke records and more than earned the selection for our 2020 Rice Football Team MVP.
Austin Trammell didn’t touch the football in the first two quarters of the Owls’ season opener against Middle Tennessee. In the third quarter of that game, he hauled in his first catch, an eight-yard touchdown reception. From that moment onward, he was a touchdown machine, an unquenchable spark plug for the Rice offense.
It was Trammell on the receiving end of Mike Collins’ fourth down heave in the final minute of regulation. It was Trammell again, on the very next pass, racing into the endzone for the go ahead score. Who else would the Collins hit on the two-point conversion that followed? Once more, it was Trammell.
When Rice needed a play, Trammell produced. After watching how much the star receiver impacted the game down the stretch against Middle Tennessee, wide receiver’s coach Mike Kershaw stated the obvious in the days following the game: “He needs to be more involved.”
The next time Rice took the field, Trammell was more than involved, he was the centerpiece of the Rice offense. He caught three touchdowns against Southern Miss, torching the entire secondary down the sideline for a 72-yard score. He found the paydirt again in the first quarter of the Owls’ third game against North Texas. In the span of seven quarters, from the end of the first game to the beginning of the third, he scored six times.
Entering the season, Trammell has scored seven times in 37 career games, a rate of roughly one touchdown every five or so games. In 2020, he averaged two touchdowns per game. After looking the part in fall camp, he delivered jaw-dropping performances from the gridiron stage every Saturday.
Then, almost out of nowhere, the show stopped.
Trammell suffered an injury against North Texas that prevented kept him out of the Owls’ final two games. When accounting for one defensive score, an offense that averaged 27 points per game with him on the field scored 14.5 points per game with him on the sideline. If the MVP belongs to the team’s most valuable player, it’s hard to argue for anyone else other than the Owls’ team captain and leading touchdown man.
His shortened 2020 season propelled him further up several of the program’s all-time lists. He’s eighth all-time in receiving touchdowns. He’s the ninth Owl with 3,000 all-purpose yards. His six touchdown receptions in a single season were the most since Jordan Taylor caught seven in 2014, and it took Taylor 10 games to reach that mark. Trammell did it in three. The spark he brought to the offense was undeniable.
Trammell first earned a starting job in his sophomore season. He caught 62 passes that year, following that with a 60 catch performance as a junior. His 16 receptions this year, when averaged against a typical 12-game season, put him on pace for 62 receptions. To some extent, his usage was on par with what it had been in the past. In reality, though, how he was targeted took a significant step further down the field.
After averaging 10.2 and 12.1 yards per reception in 2018 and 2019, respectively, Trammell averaged 20.9 yards per catch in 2020. No player in Conference USA averaged more. In fact, he and North Texas wideout Jaelon Darden were the only players in the conference to average at least 15 yards per reception and catch at least five touchdowns. Trammell wasn’t just a deep threat. He was a bonafide playmaker.
Even though he wasn’t playing, Trammell was present in the final weeks of practice and game prep. He mentored Jake Bailey and the younger wide receivers, conversing with them in between drills and providing pointers along the way. Just as he had done when he missed spring practices as he rehabbed from a separate injury, he found a way to lead the team from the sideline.
The narrative of who Austin Trammell was as a player changed in 2020. He went from a reliable slot man to a legitimate weapon. No matter where he goes from here, he’ll always have his place in Rice football history.