EARTH CITY, Mo. — The reporters crowded around Tavon Austin at his locker Wednesday afternoon, asking the rookie wide receiver question after question about his masterful three-touchdown performance on Sunday against the Colts.
A couple feet away, Brian Quick stood largely unnoticed.
That’s been status quo this fall for the Rams’ sophomore wide receiver, a second-round pick out of tiny Appalachian State a year ago. But Quick made one of the biggest plays of the Rams’ 38-8 win in Indianapolis.
You probably missed it if you weren’t watching closely.
But go back and watch the highlight of Austin’s third touchdown, the 81-yard catch-and-run early in the third quarter. After Kellen Clemens delivered a short pass to Austin at the 24-yard line, Quick locked onto a defender near the right sideline and pushed the poor guy into the Rams’ bench.
“It was an outside release,” Quick said. “I had a go route. Then it became just find somebody up the field. (Austin’s) dangerous when he has the ball in his hands in the open field. I was leading my guy out of the play.”
Um, yeah. Mission accomplished.
“I just took him to the sidelines. To the bench,” Quick said. “He needed to take a seat.”
Quick hasn’t been the player St. Louis fans hoped for when the Rams selected him with the 33rd overall pick in the 2012 draft. He had just 11 catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie and he has 11 receptions for 226 yards and one touchdown so far this year.
But that doesn’t mean the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder can’t become the impact player the Rams — and their fans — envisioned when he was drafted. He’s putting in the work to get there, even if the results aren’t clearly visible on the field every Sunday.
“I’m never happy with where I’m at,” Quick said. “I’m always progressing every day. I come to work every day to get better. When an opportunity comes my way I’m going to have to capitalize on it and make the best of it.”
Quick caught his first touchdown pass of the season in his first start of the season, at Houston on Oct. 13. The next week, at Carolina, he caught two passes for a career-high 93 yards.
In the three games since, he’s been targeted just four times and caught two passes for 30 yards. But, no, he said he’s not frustrated. He’s still just doing whatever he can to help the Rams put points on the board and try to help the team win.
That’s what he was doing Sunday to that helpless Colts defender.
“He’s done a great job,” Clemens said. “He really has. Every week, he does things that show the work that he’s doing off the field. He’s a guy that’s spent a lot of time in his playbook and spending a lot of time on his technique. And he’s doing a lot of things that maybe don’t make the headlines, but are helping us win.”
The quarterback then pointed out Quick’s block on Austin’s touchdown.
“There’s a reason why that entire half of the field was wide open when he turned the corner,” Clemens said. “It’s because Brian Quick took his man and put him into the Gatorade cooler. He really did. Go back and watch it. It’s awesome. It’s awesome to watch. He’s doing a great job. He’s got a role on this football team and he’s doing a great job in that role.”
The 24-year-old wide receiver understands his time will come if he keeps working at getting better every day, whether it’s on the practice field, in the weight room or studying the playbook.
Many wide receivers make a big leap from their first to second seasons in the NFL, but it takes longer for others. The league is full of good wideouts who didn’t blossom right away.
Tampa Bay’s Vincent Jackson had three catches as a rookie and 27 in his second year before going on to post four 1,000-yard seasons. Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson had 22 catches in his second year. Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson had 10 receptions as a rookie, then two catches in five games in his second season before three straight 1,000-yard campaigns.
“Everybody has their own pace of basically reaching their peak and their full potential,” Quick said. “It takes longer for other people. I feel like I’m just progressing slowly. I’m ready to work every day and we’ll see what comes.”
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.