Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell has given Teryl Austin his first shot at being a defensive coordinator in the NFL.
It was also Caldwell, 59, who gave Austin, 49, his first full-time coaching job more than two decades ago.
In this way, the two — mentor and pupil — have come full circle.
While Caldwell has been running offenses since they first met, Austin still views him as one of the coaches who have most helped shape his career.
Here’s a look at the four men Austin says have had the greatest influence on him as a football coach, giving some indication as to what to expect from the Lions’ new D-coordinator:
Austin, who played defensive back at the University of Pittsburgh from 1984-87, moved into coaching as a graduate assistant at Penn State in 1991. Caldwell was the Nittany Lions’ quarterback coach at the time.
Working with Lloyd was one of the highlights when I coached in college.
Two years later, Caldwell got his first head-coaching job at Wake Forest and hired Austin to be the defensive backs coach.
"Jim holds a special place in my heart," Austin said. "I was a young guy. I’d just finished trying to play (NFL/CFL training camps and one year in the World League of American Football), went to Penn State as a GA, was just trying to learn the game from the other side (as a coach). I didn’t know if I was doing well or doing bad. I was just trying.
"He gave me an opportunity to go with him at Wake Forest. It wasn’t easy there when we first got in. I learned. I took a lot of lumps in terms of learning how to relate with guys and all those things. Jim’s, obviously, helped me tremendously in that regard."
Austin was Michigan’s defensive backs coach under Carr from 1999-2002.
"I’ve got a special place for Lloyd Carr," Austin said. "Working with Lloyd was one of the highlights when I coached in college. He’s outstanding. I still consider him one of my better friends.
"I love talking to Lloyd. I might have heard them a few times, but he’s always got a good story for me."
Austin’s first NFL job was as the Seattle Seahawks’ DB coach from 2003-06 when Rhodes was the defensive coordinator.
"Ray really taught me how you relate with the NFL player," Austin said. "It’s different than college. It’s kind of a ‘my way or the highway’ system (in college).
"In the NFL, it’s not that way. You’re dealing with grown men so you treat them as grown men. You’ve got to figure out how to balance that and get them to do what you want. I think he (Rhodes) was outstanding in that."
Pagano, the Indianapolis Colts coach whose popularity grew a couple years ago during his battle with cancer, was the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator in 2011 when Austin was the secondary coach.
"He always kept an aggressive mindset," Austin said. "His deal was ‘Hey, we’re going to continue to attack until we just can’t attack anymore.’
"I think that was something that I learned because sometimes you get a little gun-shy. You call something that doesn’t work and you’re afraid to go back to it. That was never his deal.
"He said, ‘Hey, you know, it didn’t work, here’s why it didn’t work, let’s get it fixed and let’s move on. We’re still going to play this defense because it’s good for us. Our guys believe in it. We don’t want to show that we don’t believe in something.’"