Austin Ratliff is used to being in the spotlight. A starter on the Silverton High football team as a sophomore, he helped lead the Foxes to a state Class 5A championship in 2021, catching six passes for 172 yards and 3 TDs in the semifinals vs. West Albany and he also caught a TD pass in the title win vs. Thurston.
Ratliff, a speedy and powerful 6-2, 210-pound athlete, also played defensive back for the Foxes (five tackles in the title game) and it is defense that he is focusing on at Oregon State.
Ratliff spent his freshman year at the Air Force Academy but came back to Oregon last spring to enroll at Oregon State. To date he has not seen any action for the Beavers and has had to content himself with internal honors such as being on the “scout team of the week.” Scout team members “pretend” they are the opponent and run their plays and formations in an effort to help the first-stringers prepare.
“This has been very challenging for me since I am used to being on the field and being a contributor,” Ratliff told Our Town in an email exchange. “However, I find it very humbling and am easily reminded at how big of a deal playing at Oregon State is, even if I am not playing yet. I look at this as a challenge and an opportunity to earn my playing time and to do all the little things that matter.
“Something that I have found different than high school is how important special teams is. In high school I never played special teams. Now, I am trying everything possible to get on them. The first step for me is to continue to work hard every day and find a role on special teams.”
Despite how badly Ratliff wants to get on the field he also understands that other goals are more important on a squad that was 6-1 and ranked No. 11 heading into the Oct. 28 Arizona game which is after Our Town’s presstime.
“I think that the team has done a great job so far, but it is not the time to worry about how many wins or losses we have on the season yet,” he said. “The most important thing is for us to keep taking things week by week and not worry about the outside noise. Before the season, we knew that there would be a lot more attention towards us and more media about how successful we are. That doesn’t matter to us as long as we keep taking things week by week.”
Ratliff is majoring in finance and was quite open about the juggling exercise that college football players face.
“I would say the toughest adjustment since being at Oregon State has been managing time,” he said. “Playing football is obviously at the top of my priority list, but it can be hard to find time for other things like school or even finding time to hang out with friends.”
And, just like in football, experience matters in terms of coping with college.
“School has been good this year and better than last year since I know how to make a good schedule with the best classes for each term possible.”
Alumni Watch: Two of Ratliff’s teammates on that 2021 state championship team also are trying to find their way in college ball. Wide receiver Vandon Fessler, Silverton’s MVP in the title game, is a redshirt freshman at Washington State. He has not traveled with the team and, like Ratliff, has not seen any game action. Like Ratliff, he is hoping special teams will be his route to playing time. Quarterback Jordan McCarty has seen limited but regular time at Western Oregon. McCarty has played in all 8 games for the 3-5 Wolves and has completed all nine of his passes for 154 yards. He has rushed 22 times for 88 yards and two TDs.