OXNARD, Calif. – He doesn't know exactly the reason. And he doesn't seem to really care.
All Tavon Austin knows is that 2018 already looks and feels better than any other year he can remember.
While it's still early in the process – just one preseason game in and still three weeks before the start of the regular-season opener in Carolina, Austin knows one thing is already certain.
"This is my No. 1 camp I've ever had … hands down," Austin said after the final practice in Oxnard. "Just because the plays I've been making. I've heard a lot (of criticism) over the years and for me to come out here with this team and play like this, it feels good. I'm excited about what we're doing."
In most interviews Austin has done this camp, and even in the offseason after he signed, he couldn't help but bring up negative comments he's heard, especially last year when he struggled to overcome injuries with the Rams.
The seventh overall pick in 2013, Austin has had some exciting moments as both a receiver, runner and punt returner. But high draft picks mean high expectations. And sometimes, it can lead to a high level of criticism.
"I've always had to fight every single day," Austin said. "(The media) has always said things about me but when you look at my career, I've had touchdowns. It was just the situation was messed up for me. Last year I had some injuries and it just wasn't the right place at the right time."
That's why he seems so at ease here with the Cowboys. Austin said this situation has never felt so right.
"Right now, I'm back happy again," Austin said. "And that's all that matters."
And he's not the only one. His quarterback seems to be rather happy to have No. 10 on his side. Earlier this week, Dak Prescott pointed to Austin as one of the bright spots at camp.
"It makes me feel real good," Austin said of those comments. "For a guy like that to say that about me, it definitely feels good."
Owner Jerry Jones even called Austin a leader that reminded him of Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin, just in the preparation, hard work and ability to get players to follow him.
What's even more impressive about that is Austin is doing this as a first-year player, knew to the team and the locker room.
Still, he has a reason why his teammates seem to follow his lead.
"It's all about vibes and good people," Austin said. "I really believe that I'm true to them. I'm not the type of person that fakes it. I feel like the players really look up (to me). It's just built in and all genuine. I think that's why the boys look at me. "
But being happy and being a leader all sounds good here in mid-August. Austin knows better than anyone that he was brought here to produce. And he's ready for the challenge.
"I think I can be the type of playmaker they want. I know what I can do," Austin said. "This has been the best camp I've ever had. But I'm ready to take it up a notch. Whether it's running the ball or catching, returning … I can be a big player in this league and I'm ready to show that again."