Austin Aune shared some news with his North Texas teammates — and the world — just a few days ago.
The UNT quarterback is going to be a dad.
Aune and his wife, Kristin, made the announcement on Instagram.
At a lot of colleges, being married with a kid on the way would make Aune stand out.
Not at UNT. Aune fits in perfectly in one of the more unusual quarterback rooms in college football.
UNT is all but certain to have two married players and a third who is engaged in the top three spots on its quarterback depth chart when it opens the season on Sept. 4 against Northwestern State.
Aune will be 28 two days after UNT’s opener. He married his high school sweetheart in May.
Kason Martin is 22 and married former UNT volleyball player Barbara Martin late last year. Jace Ruder is also 22. The North Carolina transfer arrived at UNT this summer shortly after he became engaged to Anne Taylor, a former college swimmer he met in Chapel Hill.
All three quarterbacks are juniors and are collectively more mature than the average quarterback trio in college football.
“It’s a cool dynamic,” Ruder said. “Most places guys get a hard time for being married or shacked up with their girls. Here, there are three quarterbacks who are married or engaged. It’s an opportunity for us to grow together.”
UNT is hoping the group’s maturity will help the program arrive at a steady quarterback situation as it looks to build on a 4-6 season that culminated with a loss to Appalachian State in the Myrtle Beach Bowl.
UNT switched quarterbacks early and often last season, when Jason Bean started seven games and Aune three in an up-and-down year. Aune threw for 1,650 yards and 13 touchdowns. Martin played sparingly. Bean left the program and transferred to Kansas in the offseason.
The situation was a far cry from the tenure of former UNT great Mason Fine. The Oklahoma native won the starting job in the first game of his freshman season in 2016 and was a rock for the program for four years.
UNT struggled to replace Fine last season and is in the midst of another quarterback competition that could last into the season.
UNT coach Seth Littrell said in the early stages of fall practice that Aune, Ruder and Martin have separated themselves and would compete for the starting job.
That was a welcome turn of events for UNT’s coaches, who will have a mature batch of quarterbacks to develop.
“If I could sign 25-year-old quarterbacks every year, I would,” UNT offensive coordinator Mike Bloesch said. “They’re living at home with their wives or fiancés. When they’re not at home, they’re up here watching film. They’re professionals. They’re grown men and act like grown men. It’s fun to coach guys like that.”
There aren’t many players in college football with more experience in life and sports than Aune, a former two-sport athlete at Argyle.
Aune signed to play football at TCU in 2012 before changing course when he was selected in the Major League draft. The Yankees gave Aune a $1 million bonus after taking him in the second round.
Aune spent six seasons playing in the minor leagues before being released and returning to college. He landed at UNT after a short stint at Arkansas.
The experience changed his life.
“I’m a totally different person than when I went to play baseball,” Aune said. “I think about that a lot. I wonder what would have happened if I had the maturity I do now when I was playing baseball. I see life and sports differently. Being more mature helped me focus on things I can control. I had a bad attitude when things weren’t going my way when I was younger.”
Marrying Kristin Aune and finding out they are expecting their first child in February helped Aune continue to grow.
He takes care of the household chores and the couple’s two dogs while Kristin works two jobs.
“Having a family gives you more motivation,” Aune said. “My wife and kid are counting on me to pay the bills. I’m motivating myself every day to get a chance to play at the next level.”
Martin is the veteran of UNT’s quarterbacks when it comes to marriage. He and his wife tied the knot on Dec. 31, 2020.
“It’s been really cool to have a partner to take on the world with and someone who is always there to pour my heart out to,” Martin said. “I’m only 22, but I feel more responsible.”
Ruder quickly bonded with Aune and Martin largely because they are also in committed relationships. The Kansas native arrived at UNT as a graduate transfer this summer shortly after he earned his degree from North Carolina.
Ruder proposed to Taylor earlier this year. She moved away from family and friends in Chapel Hill to be with Ruder and landed a job at the Center for BrainHealth at UT-Dallas.
“It’s important as a collegiate athlete to have that love and support in your life,” Ruder said. “You have someone to be real with after a long day. She supports me and builds me up when I need it.”
Ruder credits Kristin Aune and Barbara Martin for being there for his fiancé as she settles into living in the Denton area.
UNT’s trio of quarterbacks has quickly developed a bond partly because they are in committed relationships. Aune says it helps them relate.
Ruder has asked Aune and Martin what married life has been like.
“Both said that if they had to do it again, they would go to the courthouse and escape all the wedding planning,” Ruder said. “I talked to Anne about it. That didn’t go very well.”
Ruder and Taylor plan to get married in Chapel Hill in May.
All three of UNT’s quarterbacks say that while they’re at a different place in their lives than most of their teammates, they’re all still able to relate.
Each still gets a little grief about their home life, especially Aune. Some of UNT’s players have taken to calling him dad since he announced he has a child on the way.
Littrell has enjoyed working with the trio just as much as Bloesch.
“They feed off each other and help each other,” Littrell said. “That is what you want out of that room. There can’t be any egos. If you are the best of the best, then you are going to be the guy. If not, you’re still going to have a huge role.”
UNT’s quarterbacks have been a positive influence on their teammates because of their maturity on and off the field.
“They set the example for the whole team,” safety Makyle Sanders said. “They don’t mess around. Having mature guys at quarterback helps us as a team.”
All three are ready to see how the race for the starting job plays out and how they can contribute, even if it’s not in the starting role they all want to win.
“You have to be mature about it and handle your business right,” Aune said. “You have to work on the small things and come ready every single day. Being older helps us with that.”