For an Australian, LSU punter Brad Wing has turned out to be quite the All-American.
Now a third-year sophomore, Wing easily could turn pro after only his second season of college football.
Confident but not cocky, Wing grins bashfully without answering when asked about realizing the NFL dream that his father, David, briefly chased with the Detroit Lions two decades ago, then changes the subject to his more immediate goals.
“There’s two things on my mind right now,” Wing said. “The first one is a national championship, and then I really want to win the Ray Guy Award. For a personal achievement, I really want to be there in Orlando (Fla.) to compete and win the Ray Guy Award for the best punter of the year.”
Wing’s range, accuracy and versatility as a punter was honed playing Australian Rules Football. He was named first-team AP All-American and a Ray Guy semifinalist in 2011, when he averaged 44.4 yards per punt. He can punt with both legs, and is as adept at hitting short, accurate end-over-end punts as he is booming spirals
After missing LSU’s opener with a slight hamstring pull, Wing returned last week against Washington, showing no less pop in his left foot.
His first punt traveled 62 yards before rolling out of bounds at the Huskies’ 4-yard line. He finished with three punts for an average of 54.3 yards.
On Saturday night, the third-ranked Tigers host Idaho, whose punter, Bobby Cowan, also was a Ray Guy semifinalist last season.
Throughout Wing’s memorable first season, he said he hoped he could pave the way for other Australians to go to college in America as punters. He made believers out of LSU’s coaching staff, which recruited another Australian, Jamie Keehn, as Wing’s successor.
Keehn decided to pursue punting in America after learning about Wing, who hosted Keehn on his recruiting visit from Rockhampton, Australia.
“To me, that’s just a blessing, just unbelievable that I could have inspired somebody to go and chase their dream like I did,” Wing said. “I’ve already helped one kid, I know, so I’m happy with that.”
Keehn, who played in the season opener against North Texas, is generally barred from giving interviews under LSU football policies, which shield freshman from the media.
The very first long snap that came his way was high, and it went through his hands. The ball bounced behind him as North Texas players converged. Appearing perhaps calmer than he really was, Keehn scooped the ball cleanly, ran laterally away from the rush and booted a line-drive nearly 40 yards downfield to the Mean Green 16.
A handful of Aussie punters are on rosters around the country, including Minnesota’s Christian Eldred, Utah’s Tom Hackett, Wyoming’s Tim Gleeson, Maryland’s Brad Craddock and Memphis’ Tom Hornsey.
Wing, meanwhile, has a small star tattooed behind his right ear to symbolize his younger brother, Tom, who is playing high school football thanks to the family’s decision to move from Melbourne to Baton Rouge.
“It was either going to be a star, a little smiley face or a peace sign,” Wing said. “He likes to think he’s a star.”
Not a star punter, though. He plays receiver.
“He’s a lot more athletic than me,” Wing said.
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