Editor's note: This marks the 30th anniversary of USA TODAY recognizing the nation's top high school athletes. As we prepare to unveil the 2012 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Football Team at the end of the season, we'll dig into the archives and check in with ALL-USA honorees from the past three decades. This week's player is David Ausberry, an American Family Insurance ALL-USA running back in 2005 while at Lemoore, Calif.
David Ausberry always wanted to be a running back growing up but he kept growing.
As a 6-foot-4, 215-pound wide receiver, he could ususally overpower smaller defensive backs when he was an American Family Insurance ALL-USA selection at Lemoore (Calif.) in 2005. That didn’t change much when he started for four years at Southern California, grabbing 64 receptions for 700 yards.
On draft day in 2011, despite performing well in combines, he wasn’t drafted until the seventh round by the Raiders, meaning 240 players were taken before him.
“Getting drafted low is more motivation than a lot of people think,” Ausberry said. “You want to be a first-round pick. I didn’t do the things I could have done to be a high draft pick, but I do have a chip on my shoulder. If I am going against a first-rounder, I’m going to do what I can do to make people realize they made a mistake.”
Now in his second season with the Raiders, Ausberry is adapting to playing tight end. At 245 pounds, he’s more of a force than he was in high school, but he’s frequently attempting to block players who outweigh him by 50 pounds.
“They wanted me to learn tight end because they had a lot of injuries,” Ausberry said. “It was a humbling experience. When you get to the league, everybody is good. I have to learn how to practice like a pro. There are a lot more challenges.”
Last season, he played infrequently as he learned the Raiders’ offense. This season, he has already played in a dozen games, the same he did all of last season, with seven catches for 92 yards.
“It’s a different world,” Ausberry said. “I’m used to going out there and dissecting three defensive backs. I was never worried about linebacker alignments. The mental adjustment is the toughest part, that and the people you’re blocking are now bigger than you.”
Ausberry is fortunate that he’s played his entire career reasonably close to his hometown. His family, is two and a half hours away from Oakland, a little closer than they were when he was at Southern Cal.
Ausberry said he knows job insecurity is the norm in the NFL, so he keeps working on improving.
“I want to be great,” he said. “I'm not here to get a few touchdowns. We want to win some Super Bowls. We all want to win. You can't be afraid to get that. I want to be respected. I want my name to be up there with the great players.”
Follow Jim Halley on Twitter at @JimHalley.