After the St. Louis Rams traded up for the No. 8 pick and chose Tavon Austin, West Virginia’s dynamite tiny-mite vowed to show his appreciation with points and victories.

“They did give up a lot, but I’m definitely going to try to work my hardest to give out a lot,” Austin said. “I’m going to come in and work hard to do my part.”

Questions about whether a 5-foot-8 player like Austin can withstand the physical nature of the NFL didn’t stop St. Louis from making the move and dealing for Buffalo’s pick. He became the first skill-position player selected in the 2013 NFL draft and the first top-10 selection out of WVU since Adam Jones went to Tennessee in 2005.

“I’ll just keep fighting the critics off like I’ve been doing since I was young,” said the 174-pound Austin, who never missed a high school or college game due to injury. “That’s never going to go away. I would like to think I could get two inches, but I can’t. I’ll just keep on pushing.”

Of course, the proliferation of NFL passing offenses has stretched the field and allowed undersized slot receivers to flourish.

“Today’s pass-happy NFL really assists a player like Tavon Austin,” said ESPN’s Mel Kiper. “He’s a score-changer.”

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia all-purpose standout Tavon Austin went to the Rams at the No. 8 overall pick Thursday night in the NFL draft.

“His highlight tape will take a while to get through,” added Jon Gruden.

Austin made 114 catches last season for the Mountaineers but was even more impressive maneuvering after the catch — or after the handoff, as he showed in an epic 344-yard rushing performance against Oklahoma.

After a second workout for the Rams last week in Morgantown, Austin felt the team was serious about drafting him. He said St. Louis coaches pledged to exploit his talents in the same ways West Virginia did — meaning he’ll get touches at running back, receiver and on special-teams.

“I had a feeling they liked me when I went up there for their visit, and I felt like I connected well with the coaches and the GM,” Austin said. “Me and the coaches just clicked. I’m just thankful for the opportunity they’re giving me.”

“(Austin’s) athletic skills are like none other. I love him with the ball in his hands. I love him tracking the football. He’s a route-runner and he understands concepts. I believe Sam Bradford is the luckiest man alive.” — Marshall Faulk

The Rams apparently weren’t dissuaded by Austin’s score on the Wonderlic test — a 7 out of 50 that reportedly was among the lowest in the draft class.

In order to climb from No. 16 to No. 8, St. Louis shipped Buffalo the No. 16, No. 46, No. 78, and No. 222 picks. The Rams, who also received the Bills’ third-round pick at No. 71 overall, reportedly sensed the Jets were targeting Austin with the ninth pick.

Now Rams fans will see what St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford — with 45 touchdowns and 34 interceptions in three pro seasons — can accomplish with a weapon like Austin, who’s so versatile he shouldn’t require long to acclimate to the NFL passing game.

For Austin, even a high-profile prep career at Baltimore Dunbar didn’t inflate his ego. He became a coach’s treasure at West Virginia, a durable superstar who proved as reliable in practice as he was on gamedays.

“I always had big dreams about getting to the league, but being the first skilled player drafted and going in the first round — I definitely didn’t expect this,” he said.

West Virginia’s first-rounder from last year, defensive end Bruce Irvin, shared some encouragement moments before NFL commissioner Roger Goodell opened the draft:

At No. 1, Kansas City selected Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher, launching a draft that appears to be rich with offensive line talent.

Picking No. 2, Jacksonville selected another tackle, Texas A&M’s Luke Joekel.

Oregon outside linebacker Dion Jordan went to Miami at No. 3, a pick the Dolphins acquired from the Raiders.

Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson went to the Eagles at No. 4, before two edge rushers — BYU defensive end Ziggy Ansah (Detroit) and LSU’s Barkevious Mingo (Browns) — filled the next two slots.

At No. 7, Arizona took North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper.

The NFL Network’s Marshall Faulk, a former Rams great, loved the acquisition by St. Louis.

“His athletic skills are like none other,” Faulk said. “I love him with the ball in his hands. I love him tracking the football. He’s a route-runner and he understands concepts.

“I believe Sam Bradford is the luckiest man alive.”

West Virginia’s history of first-round NFL picks:

2013: Tavon Austin, WR, pick No. 8 (Rams)

2012: Bruce Irvin, DE, pick No. 15 (Seahawks)

2005: Adam Jones, CB, pick No. 6 (Titans)

2000: Anthony Becht, TE, pick No. 27 (Jets)

1990: Renaldo Turnbull, DE, pick No. 14 (Saints)

1986: Brian Jozwiak, OT, pick No. 7 (Chiefs)

1966: Dick Leftridge, RB, pick No. 7 (Steelers)

1958: Chuck Howley, OG, pick No. 7 (Bears)

1956: Joe Marconi, FB, pick No. 6 (Rams)

1936: Joe Stydahar, OT, pick No. 6 (Bears)

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  • cutty77

    These Coments should be about Tavon,Not Geno, BUCKETHEADS. Great Time at WVU Tavon.Their will never be another one close to You at WVU. I think Tavon will be Offense Rookie of The Year in The NFL.

  • Helen5844

    I for one am very proud of Tavon Austin. He shows what he has on the field and doesn't run off at the mouth.
    I hope and pray he gets everything he wants from the NFL. Will be watching to see him on the field in 2013.

  • Ernie

    I wish the Browns would have taken Tavon. Being a Browns and WVU fan, I hope they can still get Stedman. Hopefully Geno will go soon in round 2.

  • Bill

    Tavon's play brought incomparable moments to WV. Our great state is proud of him. Don't think the nation missed seeing that flying WV lapel pin on his sport coat last night. He'll be a great NFL player who will represent us with dignity.

  • BigDave

    Never missed a practice while at WVU. Attitude. Passion. Desire.

    The makeup of a champion.

  • Phil M.

    Very happy for Tavon. Now Tavon, work hard and no off the field incidents like Pac Man !!

    As far as Gino, I always felt like Jacksonville was the best fit. Close to home and the best chance to play sooner. Let's hope they take him when Round 2 opens tonight.

    Hey how about Steadman to the Skins in Round 3.

    Thanks guys for representing WVU well and good luck with your future in the NFL.

  • Hoffy

    Good for young Mr. Austin! He has the potential to have a fine career in the NFL. It certainly will be worthwhile watching him on that level.
    Best of luck to him!

  • CaptainQ

    The BIGGER story of the NFL Draft Day 1 is how former WV QB Geno Smith slid right out of the round! Just last week, some of the NFL 'experts' were saying that Geno could go as high as third or sixth in the draft, but who would've thought he'd be shut out of the First Round completely?

    Why did Geno's NFL stock plummet so quickly?

    • tw eagle

      do you realize how badly recruiting would get if the coaches went public with the 'truth' about their players . .. .believe me , smith's bad footwork was the least of his problems . . .maybe this will help bring his ego back into the same universe that the rest of us exist in ...will smith wise up , or will he sulk like he did on the WVU sidelines . . .

    • Hoffy

      With all due respect, CaptQ, were you paying attention to other analysts predictions regarding QB's coming into the draft? Nobody could agree where Smith, Barkley or Nassib would be drafted.
      If anything, the surprise was seeing the Bills select Manual from Florida State. Who saw that one coming?
      So much for the arm-chair "experts". They got it wrong with Unitas, Montana, Brady, Rodgers, etc., just as much as they got it wrong with Leaf, Harrington, and a few other "can't miss" college QB's - not to mention how many Heisman Trophy busts.
      All the talk from those folks is simply talk; they don't have a crystal ball.
      The draft is somewhat like a crapshoot, when one stops and thinks about it.
      Only worth fantasy football....

    • lee arthur

      Because he's not a first round talent.

  • Doug

    Tavon, you've made WV very, very proud! You've certainly earned everything and I wish you all the best. Let's hope that Geno and Stedman get drafted real soon as they also are most deserving!

  • Maxxajay

    Congratulations ....Very happy for you Austin you was good for West Virginia University and I hope nothing but the best for you and all of your football career... Mountaineer always and forever.. I will miss you on Saturdays but I will enjoy you on Sundays. It was such a great joy to watch this young man play football ...

  • wvtd

    best of luck guys! thank you for coming to WVU.

  • Wemakerain

    Congrats way to make the WVU family proud

  • CaptainQ

    Way to go, Tavon!!!

    You KNOW you're good when a NFL team trades UP in the First Round of the draft just to make sure they get you!

    Good luck in St. Louis!