By Steve Overbey
ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis rookie wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey received the lesson of a lifetime Thursday night.
The two former West Virginia standouts got a 20-minute session with former Rams All-Pro Isaac Bruce following the team’s regular two-hour practice session.
Bruce, who caught 1,024 passes for 15,208 yards 91 TDs in his 16-year career, is in camp for a few days to help coach Jeff Fisher.
Bruce spoke at length with the pair and even got down in a stance and showed some of the techniques that made him one of the best receivers in the game.
Austin and Bailey looked like wide-eyed children during the impromptu lessons peppering Bruce with one question after another.
“It’s just a blessing to talk to someone like that,” Bailey said. “He’s done so much in the NFL for so long. To have him come out and give me some words of advice, a lot of guys will never have the opportunity to learn from a great like him.”
Austin, the Rams’ first round selection and eighth overall choice, also was thrilled to see Bruce.
“I’m just glad to be able to learn from him,” Austin said. “Pick his brain. I asked him, “What can I do better? And he was happy to help.
“It’s something I’ll never forget — that he wanted to help me.”
Fisher invited Bruce to camp in hopes that he could pass on some wisdom to the young receiving corps.
Austin and Bailey have performed well during the first week of training camp. The two are roommates, at least for the next couple weeks, and they have been learning from each another on and off the field.
The former Mountaineers hope to continue their college success at the pro level. The multi-talented Austin caught 114 passes for 1,289 yards and 12 scores as a senior last season. He rushed for 643 yards and also scored three times on the ground.
In addition, Austin returned both a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns becoming the first player in school history to score four different ways in the season.
Austin, 5-foot-8 and 174 pounds, is expected to play an integral role on offense and special teams. So far, he has had no trouble grasping the Rams’ offense.
“We’ve asked him to do a lot, putting him inside and in the slot,” St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford said. “And he’s handling everything really well.”
Bailey was chosen in the third round, the 92nd overall choice. He also caught 114 passes at West Virginia last season. He is more of a conventional receiver.
The two were friends throughout their careers in Morgantown. Both are pleased to continue that relationship on the professional level.
“It’s great we get to share this together,” Austin said. “We don’t have to go through this by ourselves.”
Bailey agreed, “We’ve been dealing with each other for so long, he’s kind of like a brother to me. It’s a luxury for us to be on the same team. Stuff like that doesn’t happen very often.”
Fisher likes the fact that the two have a bond off the field.
“They challenge each other and they study together,” Fisher said. “That a great combination.”
The pair shined on Thursday. Austin caught a pair of deep throws from Bradford that drew cheers from a crowd of 1,128. Bailey chipped in with two nifty short grabs.
“We’re doing pretty well so far, just kind of leaning on each other,” Bailey said.
The roommate situation is working out as well.
“We both share the cleaning and other duties,” Austin says. “We quiz each other a lot too.”
The two had plenty of success at West Virginia. They became the favorite targets of quarterback Geno Smith, who is now with the New York Jets.
The Mountaineers went 10-3 in 2011 and beat Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl. Austin scored four times in that contest.
“Now, hopefully we can keep that up and have long careers together in the NFL too,” Bailey said.