Aussie Wing becoming a popular punter at LSU
LSU's left-footed punter from Down Under, Brad Wing, would like to think he'll one day be known more for punting than an infamous celebration penalty that took away his 52-yard touchdown run.
Wing says that appears to be happening already back in his native Australia, where sports fans may not be intimately familiar with the rules of American football, but know good kicking when they see it.
''I've always said that I wanted to change the punting position and how people view punters,'' said Wing, who grew in Melbourne, playing Australian rules football. ''It is strange that I've ended up here, all the way from Australia, but (kicking) is all we do. All we did is kick footballs ever since we're 5 years old.''
Wing's punting made him one of the stars of No. 1 LSU's tense 9-6 overtime triumph over Alabama last weekend. Wing's 73-yard punt, with the score tied in the fourth quarter, dramatically flipped field position and was one of four punts he put inside the 20-yard line in that game, including two inside the 10.
Australian punters are not entirely foreign to American football. Several have played in the NFL, including current Dallas punter Mat McBriar.
Wing's own father, David, briefly punted for the Detroit Lions in 1990, and the Scottish Claymores of NFL Europe.
The younger Wing hopes his success helps pave the way for young Australians to earn roster spots on college football teams across the United States.
''I have a few friends over there now that are trying to ... learn how to punt and hopefully (will be) coming over here,'' Wing said. ''There's definitely a lot of guys looking into it now, ever since I've been at LSU.''
LSU coaches didn't have to travel to recruit Wing, who spent a year at a Baton Rouge high school because a family friend lives there. He played a season of high school football in Louisiana, then remained in Baton Rouge to attend LSU.
Still, coach Les Miles has traveled internationally to recruit before, noting he once went to American Samoa to recruit players for Colorado while he was a Buffaloes assistant in the 1980s. Given Wing's success, Miles was willing to ponder, albeit half-jokingly, the idea traveling to Australia to find future punters.
''You should have the opportunity at a walkabout and there are probably some sites in Australia that the head coach would have the opportunity to go see,'' Miles said.
Then, on a more serious note, Miles added, ''What Wing did training his leg his entire youth really allowed him to transition to American football. It did first in high school, and has done so effectively in college.''
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, who'll face LSU later this month, said that while it may not be practical to travel abroad for recruiting, he sees the Internet as one means to look for international athletes.
''We've been looking at kids all over the world and they send us information all the time,'' he said.
Although Wing has punted only with his left foot in games, he said he would have no trouble switching to his right foot if pressured heavily from his left side. He is also comfortable kicking while running, an essential part of the Australian game.
He'll hit the typical high spiral on deep punts, while on shorter punts he employs a precise end-over-end punt that is essentially the same as the kick he once used to pass the ball to teammates in Australia. He usually puts the ball where the coverage team expects it, which has helped him land 10 punts inside the 10 this season and 19 inside the 20.
Relatives and friends have been watching back Australia, where some of LSU's games have been broadcast on ESPN's international channel. Some news outlets in his native country have begun including LSU football in their coverage, Wing said.
''I had a lot of friends tell me that the highlights from the `Bama game were on there, and they see me every week now because they got it followed on the Internet,'' Wing said.
In addition to the Alabama game, Wing's other memorable game - in terms of punting - came in a 47-21 victory over West Virginia, when he put the ball inside the Mountaineers 12 six times.
He also had a punt downed at the 2 against Florida, but that was overshadowed by his long scamper on a fake punt that ended with a penalty when he momentarily looked back and spread his arms in celebration before crossing the goal line.
On every punt, Wing still looks for an opening to run, but said opponents have been watching him closely since he took off against the Gators.
If he only punts from here on, he can live with that. After all, that's why he tried American football in the first place.
''I want to be remembered for punting,'' he said.