Austin Mack believes this is his time to shine in the NFL

“I told my agent I felt really good with what I had going on in Montreal,” the receiver says of his Grey Cup-winning season with the Alouettes.

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When receiver Austin Mack reported to the Alouettes’ training camp last May, he was fourth on the depth chart despite the exodus of free agents Eugene Lewis and Jake Wieneke, combined with an injury to Reggie White Jr.

Not only did Mack make the team, he was Montreal’s leading receiver and the club’s nominee as most outstanding player.

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More mature at age 26 and experienced as he prepares for his second foray into the NFL, Mack understandably remains confident he can crack the Atlanta Falcons’ roster and contribute offensively to a team that has considerable rebuilding ahead in its future.

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“This time around, there won’t be any slip-ups,” Mack told the Montreal Gazette by telephone from his winter home after signing a two-year contract on Monday with the Falcons. “I can’t wait to take it to the next level and being able to showcase that in the NFL, on the biggest stage. I’m excited and ready for this moment.

“I want to contribute and help this team win. Whatever my job, I’m going to try and produce at a high level. I’m going to work my way into this rotation and definitely contribute on offence. That’s my biggest goal. It’ll be exciting to see.”

After playing collegiately at prestigious Ohio State, Mack was signed by the New York Giants in 2020 as an undrafted free agent. He caught seven passes for 91 yards that season but was released the following September. Following brief stints, but no playing time, with Tennessee and San Francisco, the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder signed with the Als last season.

Mack caught 78 passes for 1,154 yards and scored four touchdowns for the frequently offensively-challenged Als, impressing many with his physical play, route running and dependable hands. It didn’t take long for opposing CFL teams to focus on Mack, double-teaming him with defenders.

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Mack was the leading receiver in Montreal’s Grey Cup victory against Winnipeg, catching six passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. Less than a week later, Atlanta contacted his agent. Mack worked out for the team last week and was promptly signed on the opening day of eligibility for CFL players.

It’s believed Mack received a signing bonus approaching US$100,000, indicating the Falcons consider him a legitimate prospect. Mack said he earned high praise following his workout from Ryan Pace, Atlanta’s director of player personnel and a former general manager with the Chicago Bears.

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“I’m feeling good about it,” Mack said. “I’m excited to take this next step. Coming into this, I told my agent I felt really good with what I had going on in Montreal. The only thing that would take me away from the CFL, honestly, was a legit (NFL) opportunity. We didn’t send out film or make any calls. We waited for our phone to ring. I had a couple of other teams reach out as well, but we kept Atlanta first. After having that workout and hearing the things they said about me, we didn’t need to go anywhere else.

“I wasn’t going to take that next step without knowing that team was serious about me.”

The Falcons fired head coach Arthur Smith on Monday after finishing with a 7-10 record — their third consecutive year without a playoff appearance or winning record. The team’s thin at wide receiver behind Drake London and has been plagued by inconsistent quarterback play. Their only QBs under contract for 2024 are Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke.

Should Mack fail to stick with Atlanta, he remains under contract with the Als. His agent was in negotiations with general manager Danny Maciocia on a two-year contract extension Mack claimed was worth a total of $500,000.

“I needed to know I had a real opportunity of coming somewhere, being part of a team and contributing in the right way,” he said. “I’m 26. Being a little risky right now is OK. I’ve got so much confidence in myself. I don’t think I’ll be back up there but, if I’m back, I’ll love every single bit of it.”

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