LSU punter Jamie Keehn follows in footsteps of countryman Wing
“I don’t mind being that other Australian. I just want to do my best for the team and if coach (Les) Miles thinks I’m that other Australian, I’m good with that.” JAMIE KEEHN, LSU punter
It’s easy to look at Jamie Keehn as LSU’s “other Australian punter” and that’s fine with him.
The Tigers’ original Australian punter was Brad Wing, whose strong leg and masterful use of Australian Rules Football kicks made him unusually effective the past two seasons. His thick accent, engaging personality and signature glasses made him unusually popular for a punter as well.
After being suspended for the Chick-fil-A Bowl in December, Wing chose to forego his final two years of eligibility to enter the NFL draft. Though Wing was not selected in the draft, he did sign a free-agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles with whom he’s trying to earn a roster spot.
So just as Keehn stepped in for Wing for last year’s opener against North Texas when Wing was injured and just as he did for the bowl game, Keehn has stepped in for Wing as LSU’s starting punter heading into this season’s opener against TCU on Aug. 31.
The two biggest differences between Keehn and Wing is that Keehn is right-footed and Wing is left-footed, and Keehn, a former champion javelin thrower and rower, has a slightly more solid frame — 6-foot-4, 218 pounds, compared to Wing (6-3, 205).
But otherwise, Keehn, who’s sort of Wing’s protégé even though he’s more than two years older, is simply the next Aussie.
“Brad was great,” Keehn said of his host during his recruiting visit in early 2012. “The two years that he started here were phenomenal — first year Freshman All-American and improved his average the second year (44.4 to 44.8) and downed the ball inside the 20 a lot (48 times).
“I don’t mind being that other Australian. I just want to do my best for the team and if coach (Les) Miles thinks I’m that other Australian, I’m good with that.”
If it sounds like Keehn paid close attention to Wing, he did. Wing became a bit of a media sensation in Australia when he burst on to the scene in 2011 as the Tigers were marching through a 13-0 regular season and being ranked No. 1 for most of it.
When Keehn replaced Wing against North Texas, he averaged 41.0 yards on three punts and averaged 44.6 yards on nine punts in the bowl game. Overall he averaged 43.7 yards and half of his 12 punts carried for at least 50, including a long of 58 against Clemson.
He had three punts downed inside the opponent’s 20, which was a specialty of Wing’s, thanks to his lengthy hang time and rare ability to minimize the ball’s bounce when it landed, honed while play Aussie football.
“We’re always working on that Aussie — or as you guys like to call it — pooch punt,” Keehn said. “We’ve been working hard on that because it’s an absolute weapon if you can get that ball to die at the 10-yard line, or the 5 or even closer.”
Keehn said his introduction to American football came while he was sidelined after suffering a broken hand playing Australian football. He said a friend of his pointed him toward “Prokick Australia”, a training center designed to help prepare Australians to kick in competitive American football that he found on Youtube.
“We were joking over a beer and he said, “You should try that. You could make millions,’ ” Keehn recalled. “I thought, “Why not try something where you’re not going to get beat up all the time? The body’s not getting any younger.”
Keehn has been punting for just two years, but he said he feels he has earned the confidence of Miles and specials teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey.
Miles praised Keehn for his pooch punting in the Tigers scrimmage on Saturday.
“It’s all still a very new experience, but this year I feel like I can go out and try different things each day and they’ve got confidence in me to try them in games,” said Keehn, a sophomore who hopes to pass along the “other Australian punter”.
“There’s a little bit of a pipeline coming through so hopefully after another three years once I’m eventually out of eligibility we can bring in another Aussie because it seems to be working,” Keehn said. “Let’s keep up the tradition.”