On Sanchez's first snap Saturday night, early in the fourth quarter, the 6-foot-2, 312-pound Austin slung the New York Jets quarterback to the ground for a sack and a 9-yard loss. Just a few minutes later, Austin drilled Sanchez into the ground immediately after a throw -- a clean-looking hit, but one that resulted in Sanchez leaving the game with a right shoulder injury.
Both Austin and fellow New York Giants defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins were chasing Sanchez. "Coach called a play, and I just pretty much overlapped over Hankins," Austin said. "And then when I saw [Sanchez], s---, I just hit him. I hit him hard. I felt it."
Austin said he didn't realize Sanchez was hurt right away. "Nah, I didn't know," Austin said. "I was hurt -- when I hit him I felt it in my chest. I played it off, tried to run off, but it was a pretty hard hit. Hopefully he's healthy or whatever, I wish nobody to be hurt, but it was a hard hit."
It was the most memorable play of a rather ugly game between New York's two football teams. It also may have been the biggest play of Austin's NFL career, despite the fact that it came in a preseason game.
Austin, 24, has thus far failed to live up to the Giants' expectations after they drafted him in the second round (52nd overall) in 2011 out of North Carolina. Austin missed all of his rookie year after tearing a pectoral muscle in a preseason game, and played in just eight games last season, with eight tackles.
Austin is literally playing for his job right now. He's currently listed as a third-stringer, and the Giants arguably have more depth at defensive tackle than any other position. He knows that his time to prove himself is running out.
"I gotta be more productive, I know that, to be a part of this team," Austin said. "So I just wanted to go out there, have fun, and make plays."
Well, mission accomplished. And the Jets' coach did Austin a favor by putting Sanchez in the game, behind a backup offensive line no less. Knocking out Matt Simms or Greg McElroy wouldn't have garnered Austin nearly as much attention.
Austin admitted he was surprised to see Sanchez on the field in the fourth quarter.
"Yeah, I mean, they got a huge investment in him. So I was a little surprised," Austin said. "I just knew that I gotta go out there and hit him. I gotta go out there and perform, and show 'em that I can play in this league. Who better to do it against than the Jets' quarterback?"