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As Aaron Judge stepped into the batter’s box before hitting his American League-record 62nd home run of the season, North Texas quarterback Austin Aune sat up in anticipation. But if you asked the 29-year-old college junior where he thought he would be during this moment, back when he was selected by the New York Yankees in 2012, Aune would have said right there in the dugout waiting to celebrate with his teammates.

Instead, he took in the historic moment from his couch with his wife and 8-month-old daughter, roughly 45 minutes north of Globe Life Field, where Judge and the Yankees were playing the Texas Rangers.

Aune, who is believed to be the oldest quarterback to start a game in the modern era of Division I and the Football Bowl Subdivision, was on top of the world 10 years ago. He had parlayed his team’s appearance in the uber-competitive Texas 3A state football playoffs into a full scholarship to play football and baseball at TCU. But during his second day on campus, the Yankees selected him with the 89th pick in the MLB draft.

A second-round pick in that slot range usually would garner roughly a $500,000 signing bonus, but the Yankees offered him $1 million.

“With me being on campus at TCU, I kind of had a bit of leverage as far as with the draft,” Aune said. “The only reason I left is because it was a great opportunity. Second-round pick — by the New York Yankees. The 27-time world champs. That was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss, either. To become a professional athlete at the age of 18 was super enticing.”

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Expectations were high for the shortstop out of Argyle, Tex., but Aune’s results fell short on the field. After five years in the minor leagues, which saw him accumulate a .285 on-base percentage, 20 home runs, 148 RBI, 575 strikeouts and 14 steals in 387 games, Aune was released.

“It was just consistency at the plate. I struck out way too much. When I did hit the ball, I made great contact and hit for a bit of power,” said Aune, who never advanced beyond the organization’s high Class A minor league affiliate. “I’d say the writing was on the wall toward the end of my last year. I was struggling a lot, was kind of down on myself.”

While Aune’s dream of becoming a professional baseball player was over at 24, he wasn’t ready to stop playing sports just yet.

Drawing inspiration from two former baseball players who returned to college to play quarterback, Chris Weinke and Brandon Weeden (who also had been drafted by the Yankees), Aune turned his attention back to the gridiron.

As his Ford F-150 bounded across the country from the Yankees’ facilities in Tampa back to Argyle, he and his then-girlfriend (now wife) created a list of the college football contacts who had recruited him out of high school and started cold-calling them about a potential return. Surprisingly, schools were receptive to the idea of adding a guy who hadn’t played football in six years.

While Aune’s initial school, TCU, showed interest, he ended up at Arkansas. He joined in the spring of 2018 but realized he needed time to reacquaint himself with the nuances of the game. Aune thought it would be easier to do that in a place where he felt comfortable and close to his family. So he returned home and started working out at his local high school, throwing with the team’s current players under the tutelage of his high school quarterbacks coach.

A chance meeting between his wife’s boss and North Texas Coach Seth Littrell over dinner led to him joining the program, which is roughly a 10-minute drive from his hometown, as a preferred walk-on.

“Coming out of high school, I knew he was a good player,” Littrell said. “A major thing that had moved me was that he was a professional. He knew how to lead and take care of his body, and we just knew that he was going to work hard and do all the right things, which is really important when you’re recruiting a kid. He had all the tools: the arm talent and all the things you want in a quarterback.”

After redshirting his freshman season in 2018, Aune attempted only five passes in 2019 and spent the next year splitting time as the team dealt with a bit of a quarterback carousel.

Aune started the 2021 season second on the depth chart behind Jace Ruder. Following a couple of rough performances by Ruder, Aune was given an opportunity to lead the team, and he didn’t disappoint. Against Missouri, he threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-35 loss, earning the starting job.

With Aune under center, North Texas rebounded from a 1-6 start to win its final five games — including a 45-23 victory over 11-0 Texas San Antonio — to become bowl eligible.

He has continued to build on the success.

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North Texas (4-3, 3-0) sits atop Conference USA and is on pace to reach bowl eligibility for a second consecutive season. Aune ranks 10th in the nation with 17 touchdown passes and 33rd in yards with 1,692, and his total quarterback rating of 70.7 ranks 41st.

“I love Aune because of the way that he has solidified the starting spot for us and kind of unlocked our winning potential,” said Roderic Burns, North Texas’s leading receiver. “He has a certain edge to him that makes you want to follow him. Like, dude is 29 and still playing college football. Obviously, something is driving him, and as a man, it’s like, how can I not get on board with a dude that’s still out here fighting for his dreams?”

Despite being seven to 10 years older than most of his contemporaries, and having a wife and kid, Aune has had no problem being just one of the guys. Earlier this season, Aune surprised his teammates when he grabbed the aux cord and played “Set it off” by Lil Boosie.

“That song really [hyped] him up,” Burns said. “That man Aune knew the song bar-for-bar and had us all turnt, too. It was just a real good moment for the team.”

Although the redshirt junior has another season of eligibility because of the coronavirus pandemic, he has no intention of being a 30-year-old college quarterback. Instead, he’s going to see if he can make it in the NFL. If that doesn’t work, he has a backup plan: commercial real estate.

“Being a 29-year-old college student is more than enough,” Aune said. “I’m [going to] make the most of this year, go to pro day in the spring and see what happens. If it happens, great. If not, that’s okay, too. I’ve given [sports] everything I have. I’ve been in a professional organization before. Over the years, I’ve learned from my mistakes and overcome so much adversity. So at this point, what more can I ask for?”

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