Austin Joyner is taking his comeback journey north of the border.
The former Marysville Pilchuck High School football star and University of Washington cornerback has signed with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League, the team announced Wednesday.
Joyner, one of the best football players in Snohomish County history, was forced to medically retire from football at UW in October of 2018 because of a history of concussions. But he’s since been cleared by a neurologist to return to football and continue pursuing his dream of playing in the NFL.
Joyner was a two-time Herald Offensive Player of the Year in football at Marysville Pilchuck, where he amassed 5,593 yards rushing during his decorated prep career. He was named the Gatorade state player of the year after his 2014 senior season, when he led the Tomahawks to the Class 3A state semifinals. He was a four-star prospect and the top overall recruit in Washington state for his class, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings.
Joyner missed almost the entirety of his 2015 freshman season at UW because of a knee injury suffered in the season opener. He appeared in 12 games as a redshirt freshman in 2016, primarily on special teams.
Joyner broke into the Huskies’ starting secondary as a redshirt sophomore in 2017, when he started the team’s final 10 games at cornerback. He posted 40 tackles, six tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery that season. He capped it with an interception and six tackles in the Fiesta Bowl against Penn State.
Joyner appeared in four games as a redshirt junior in 2018 before suffering a concussion against Arizona State on Sept. 22. He said it was his fourth concussion during his time at UW.
“The decision wasn’t mine,” he said. “It was made for me.”
In May of 2019, Joyner began exploring the idea of returning to football. He visited a neurologist, who studied his medical records and gave him clearance to resume playing the sport.
Joyner made himself available for last year’s NFL draft and was set to participate in UW’s Pro Day, but the coronavirus pandemic scrapped those plans.
This past fall, Joyner returned to the field and played one game with the Alphas of the Spring Football League, an elite development league based in San Antonio. However, the league’s season was cut short because of a coronavirus outbreak.
Now, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound defensive back is headed to the CFL. The BC Lions, one of nine teams in the league, are set to open their preseason on May 23 and their regular season on June 12.
“I think I’m about to shock a lot of people,” Joyner told The Herald back in November, when he was eyeing the CFL. “I think I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. My body isn’t banged up like it was in college. I’m healthy again, so I’m coming back with a new energy and without a lot of contact on my body. I think that’s an advantage right now and I’m ready for the opportunity.”