Athletics Hall of Fame Inductee: Austin Pettis '07

He is the first Orange Lutheran Lancer to ever play in the NFL.


Former St. Louis Rams wide receiver Austin Pettis ‘07 had never played tackle football before he arrived at OLu. But during his senior season, Pettis had 72 receptions for 1,079 yards and 13 touchdowns which helped lead the Lancers to the school’s first and only CIF California state title in 2006. In recognition of his achievements, he will be honored this summer as one of 11 inductees in the Orange Lutheran Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2023.


Growing up, baseball was the sport where Pettis excelled the most. After being given the opportunity to attend OLu, he was introduced to the football program through a welcome barbeque for incoming freshman. He liked what he saw and decided to make the switch from the diamond to the gridiron.


“The seniors embraced us to let us know how the experience is to be an Orange Lutheran football player,” said Pettis. “So that that convinced me to be there.”


Pettis’ first year on OLu’s freshman football team was a growth experience. He had to start from square one in the sport, even learning how to correctly put on a helmet and shoulder pads. After being given opportunities at the wide receiver and defensive back positions by the Lancer coaching staff, it was the exposure to both sides of the ball during his freshman year that set the tone for his future success.


“I enjoyed my time on the freshman squad,” said Pettis. “We had a really good freshman incoming class that year, and [it] absolutely was one of the biggest years in my life in terms of football and development with the coaches that we had at OLu who taught the game to me. I learned a ton, and I was able to learn a ton on both sides of the ball.”


His sophomore year, Pettis helped to lead the Lancer varsity squad to OLu’s first ever CIF football championship. Then after sitting out his junior year due to injury, he had a tremendous comeback season as a senior, helping the Lancers earn a second CIF title and California’s first Division II State Championship. He was 1st Team All-League, 1st Team All-County and an All-CIF Southern Section honoree.

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Despite being known as a force on offense, it was a key interception by Pettis on defense that ended up being one of the most significant plays of the CIF title game. And in the State Championship, the wide receiver set a state record with three touchdowns in the first half and four touchdowns overall to help the Lancers secure the victory.


“That wasn't all because of me, but it was an accumulation of everything that I was able to develop when I was at OLu,” said Pettis. “The last two games of my high school career…this is all the hard work that you put in and now you get to reap the benefits. I'll never forget those two games.”


Gifted athletically, Pettis was also a three-time varsity basketball player, the sport he considers his first love, and a two-time varsity track athlete for the Lancers during his time at OLu. But after missing his entire junior sports year to recover from knee surgery, the college football recruiting process was slow for Pettis. He didn’t receive any offers until his senior year playoff run, and he chose Boise State University as his home for the next four years.


As a four-year starter for the Broncos, Pettis finished his college career as Boise State’s all-time leader in touchdown catches (29) and receptions (229), and he was a two-time 1st Team All-Western Athletic Conference (WAC) selection. His time at OLu under head football coach Jim Kunau and his coaching staff were instrumental in preparing him for the collegiate level.


“Any success I had in life, I can somehow wind that back to how Coach Kunau prepared me when I was at those young ages and stages of becoming a young man,” said Pettis. “As I grew older, and remembering all those lessons that he was teaching us as those 15-, 16-, 17-year-old young men, just came into fruition. The most important thing was not me as an athlete, it was me as a person.”


Coming from a family with strong ties to professional sports, Pettis had his eye on playing at the pro level from an early age. While he never considered football to be his favorite sport, it was his best sport, and his success at Boise State provided a path to play in the NFL. The former Lancer was drafted 78th overall in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams.


Pettis’ pro career lasted approximately four years, and while the experience wasn’t as long as he may have hoped, it gave him the priceless knowledge that he now passes on to youth players as a trainer and a coach.


“The best part that I got from the NFL was the pedigree,” said Pettis. “I learned a ton. I was a student, and now that I'm a coach, I'm able to translate to the youth the knowledge that I wish I would have known when I was an eight-year old, a ten-year old, a 15-year old or an 18-year old.”


Pettis still has a strong passion for high school football, so much so that he currently coaches locally at the high school level, along with instructing youth players through 7-on-7 team training and youth skills development.


Just as strong as his passion for coaching youth football players may be his love for Orange Lutheran. A true Lancer for life, Pettis considers it “humbling” to be an OLu Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, and his strong ties to the campus continue to this day. His mother is a member of the OLu Café staff, and his gratitude is endless for the many coaches, teachers and administrators who gave him the opportunity to shine.


“It's always a family, and I know that no matter what, I'm always going to be a Lancer that came through there,” said Pettis. “There's absolutely no way that I'd been able to reach the heights that I was able to just based on myself alone. There were a lot of factors and a lot of people, a lot of unsung heroes, that had a [role] in my life of getting me to the levels that I was able to get to, and then also supporting me and my family within that as well. There was always love for OLu, and I definitely appreciate how they treated me…I'll forever be grateful for what Orange Lutheran did for me.”

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