DENTON, Texas — Pops. Gramps. Old man.
Those are just a few of the endearing nicknames bestowed by teammates on University of North Texas starting quarterback Austin Aune.
Maybe it’s because he has a beard. Maybe it’s because he’s married to his high school sweetheart. Maybe it’s because he’s a father to an 8-month-old daughter.
Or maybe it’s because he is the oldest quarterback to play Division I college football in the modern era.
Eleven years ago, Aune dazzled as a senior quarterback at Argyle High School. He led the Eagles to the 2011 Class 3A Division II state championship game at AT&T Stadium, but they lost to Wimberley.
Despite playing for a lower classification school, Aune received plenty of interest from Division I college football programs.
The three-star recruit committed to TCU and head coach Gary Patterson – but on one condition: he could play for the baseball team in the spring.
Aune was a star shortstop for the Eagles and had fielded some pro interest coming out of high school.
Patterson knew the MLB could pull away their recruit, but the Horned Frogs welcomed the two-sport athlete.
Sure enough, in June 2012, the New York Yankees selected Aune in the second round (89th overall) of the MLB Draft.
The Yankees offered him a reported seven-figure signing bonus and the Argyle native shipped off to Florida to join their farm system. Football dreams would have to wait.
"The steps along the way and experiences along the way were well worth it,” Aune said, seated in a UNT team meeting room.
Aune spent six years in the Yankees minor league system and played with some of the game's greats.
“Couple lockers down from me was Aaron Judge,” Aune recalled. “Some of the guys that are on the big league roster now, I knew back then."
However, Aune never made it to the big leagues. He was released by the Yankees in 2017.
So, at age 25, the baseball player decided to give football the old college try.
After a brief stint at Arkansas, Aune transferred to UNT in 2018, where he’s worked his way up to the starting role.
"It's not like I'm just walking through the locker room and they're like, 'There's that old guy,'” Aune smiled. “Like, I'm still just one of the dudes walking in."
That dude turned 29 years old on Sept. 6.
According to UNT’s research, Aune is the oldest quarterback to play Division I college football in the modern era.
(If there is record of anyone older, WFAA and UNT would like to know!)
“Definitely every game somebody is trash-talking how old I am,” Aune admitted. “Like, 'Ah man, you're like 32 years old.' I'm like, 'Woah, only 29 man.’"
His teammates got jokes, too.
"They call me dad,” Aune said.
Well, that last one actually does apply.
Aune and his wife, Kristin, have an 8-month old daughter, Palmer.
"Being a dad is a really cool opportunity, and it's been the best eight months so far,” Aune said, who credits Palmer for sleeping through the night, which helps him get his rest too.
Aune is a junior. He has another year of eligibility and, if he wanted to, could play next year too – at age 30.
"My wife is super supportive so, when I told her this is my last year, she said 'All right, this is your last year,’” Aune laughed.
Thing is, he wants to turn pro... again.
"I want to try to get to the NFL," said Aune.
Aune is not the first quarterback to play college football in his late 20s -- and he wouldn't be the first to make the NFL, either.
Brandon Weeden, another former Yankees minor leaguer who later became Oklahoma State quarterback, was taken 22nd overall in the 2012 NFL Draft at age 28.
Chris Weinke, a former Toronto Blue Jays minor leaguer turned Florida State quarterback, won the Heisman Trophy in 2000 at age 28 (the oldest Heisman winner of all time), and also played in the NFL after being a fourth-round pick.
Naturally, Aune finds inspiration in their stories -- just as he does in the story of Tom Brady, the legendary, now-45-year-old quarterback who continues to stiff-arm father time.
The line Aune likes to use: “Yeah, I’m throwing to guys 10 years younger than me. But Brady is throwing to guys 20 years younger than him.”
He’s got a point.
“He keeps my hope alive,” Aune admitted. “The longer he plays, the better opportunity I have to tell scouts, 'I know he's not normal, but there is a slight chance.'"
What about playing for his hometown team?
After all, the Dallas Cowboys seem to always be in the market for another third-string quarterback.
"I'd leave tomorrow, if they called me,” Aune asserted. “They can give me a call. I'm old enough."
He sure is.
In fact, Aune would be the oldest quarterback on the Cowboys roster, too.