HOF Class of 2023: Gonzales “AJ” Austin

Men’s tennis standout established school record for singles victories (2011–15)

Gonzales “AJ” Austin enters the Hall of Fame as one of the most decorated student-athletes in school history.

A four-time All-SEC selection, including first-team honors in each of his final three seasons, he was also Vanderbilt’s first four-time ITA All-American. He earned singles and doubles All-America honors in 2014 and 2015. In 2015, in addition to being recognized as the ITA Ohio Valley Region Player of the Year, he was the second student-athlete in program history honored as SEC Player of the Year. He joined fellow Hall of Famer and 2003 SEC Player of the Year Bobby Reynolds in this distinction.

The son of a tennis coach who immigrated to the United States from Haiti, Austin began playing almost as soon as he was old enough to hold a racket. More than reaching the full heights of the potential that made him one of the nation’s top-rated recruits, he earned a school-record 107 singles victories over his four seasons at Vanderbilt.

“When you’re on your own [in junior tennis], and you’re traveling, it is really easy to get burned out and lose sight of the big picture,” Austin told VUCommodores in 2015. “When you come to Vanderbilt and you’re playing for your best friends and you get to go to school in an awesome place, it makes it a lot easier to refocus yourself and find great joy in playing the game.”

He was just as good when it came to on-court collaboration. In 2014, Austin and Ryan Lipman established a season-record 30 doubles wins. A year later, the doubles team of Austin and Rhys Johnson reached the No. 1 ranking in NCAA men’s tennis.

And when the 2014 SEC Men’s Tennis Championships came to Nashville? Austin rose to the occasion on his home court and was named to the SEC All-Tournament Team.

Austin qualified for the NCAA singles and doubles championships in each of his final two years and advanced as far as the round of 16 in singles and the quarterfinals in doubles. His doubles run alongside Lipman was the longest in team history.

He helped Vanderbilt qualify for the NCAA Championships in each of his four seasons and reach the Sweet 16 in 2013.

The standout student and double major in economics and political science was also a two-time SEC Academic Honor Roll honoree and spent a summer working as an intern for U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.