In the age of digital dating, athletes turn to social media in search of romance

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HOUSTON - You'd never expect professional athletes to have a tough time getting dates, but times have definitely changed.

"Social media has taken everything in a whole different direction," Dominic Austin said.

Austin played in the NFL from 1998-2000. He says in his playing days, the dating game was simpler.

"You're young, you're making a good amount of money, doing something you love, naturally the ladies are going to gravitate toward you when you  got all that going for you," Austin said.

Now, there's all sorts of dating websites like Match and Tinder, and athletes are even turning to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for dates.

"A lot of folks are taking advantage of the opportunity to just swipe left, swipe right instead of the whole first date dinner," Austin said. "When you can just get on the phone, send some messages back and forth, it streamlines the process, if you will."

For the 41-year-old who lives in Spring,Tinder just felt a bit too "iffy." On top of that, he went through a battle with cancer in 2014, and is now in remission.  He's started a foundation Tackles4Cancer to help patients fighting the illness.

"I can continue to be active in the community and improve the lives of cancer patients," Austin said. " I know there's a special young lady out there who will love me for that, and I'll know who she is when I meet her."

Of course, for each person, dating is done differently. 29-year-old boxer Yahu "Rock" Blackwell has used social media as a dating tool, but says it's important to be careful.

"Do your homework, find out who you're dealing with, because there are some good people out here, but there's also some weirdos," Blackwell said.  "Don't give out any personal information right away, maybe keep talking through direct messaging for a while, until you get a good feel for that person. Then, slowly ease your way into it. Start off with that and then maybe phone conversations and see how that goes, take baby steps."

Both Blackwell and Austin say it's important to be cautious when messaging, because you never know who will "screen shot" a conversation and put it out to the world.

Seems like whether for a night of fun or hopes of wedding bells, it can be pretty easy to fumble when it comes to love.

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