Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Wing has a few more 'G'days' in him
By Chris Low
LSU punter Brad Wing is easily the most popular Aussie on the Bayou these days, and he knows a bad impression of an Australian accent when he hears one.
He’s heard some real winners ever since his starring role last Saturday in LSU’s 9-6 overtime conquest of Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
People that Wing doesn’t even know have been coming up to him on campus and trying out their “G’day mate … great kick.”
And, yes, his teammates have been getting into the act, too.
Punter Brad Wing played a critical role in LSU's victory against Alabama on Saturday.
For the record, freshman receiver Odell Beckham has the best fake Aussie accent. Junior receiver Russell Shepard has the worst, and apparently, it’s not even close.
“Russell’s is shockingly bad,” Wing said. “I tell Odell we could probably pass for brothers over in Australia, but maybe not.”
Wing said even LSU coach Les Miles will take a crack at it every once in a while.
“His is OK. We’ll just leave it at that, but Russell takes the cake for the worst one ever,” Wing said.
Of course, with the way Wing is punting the ball, he could be speaking in Russian and nobody would mind.
“I can’t tell you what a weapon it is when you have a punter like (Wing) who can put the ball where he can,” LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis said.
How good has Wing been this season for the Tigers?
He’s punted the ball 37 times, and 19 of those have been downed inside the 20-yard line. LSU opponents have been limited to a total of 7 punt return yards all season.
Against Alabama, Wing kept the Crimson Tide pinned in deep just about the entire game. He sailed one punt out of bounds at the Alabama 5, had another one downed at the Alabama 4 and a third one fair caught at the Alabama 11.
But it was Wing’s 73-yard punt in the fourth quarter that was the big blow for the Tigers. LSU was backed up on its own 9-yard line in a 6-6 game, and it looked like Alabama was about to get the ball near midfield.
Wing, standing in his own end zone, had other ideas. He launched a missile that just kept going and landed well over Marquis Maze’s head, rolling all the way down to the Alabama 18.
“I hadn’t hit any like that in the games,” Wing said. “Back in high school, I hit one like that. It was just good to do it in the game.”
Prior to this season, Wing had played just two years of American football. He grew up playing Australian Rules Football, but came to Baton Rouge prior to his senior year in high school as part of an exchange program.
His father, David Wing, punted for the Detroit Lions in 1990 and also punted in NFL Europe.
In just one season at Parkview Baptist in Baton Rouge, Wing showed enough promise that LSU offered him a scholarship.
Initially, he was planning to be in the United States for only one year, but that all changed when the Tigers offered the full ride.
“It’s all happened so fast,” said Wing, who’s averaging 43.4 yards per punt. “In two years, my life has taken a complete turn. Just to be a part of a program like this is unbelievable. To come from Australia and be a part of the No. 1 team in the country is crazy. It’s like a dream come true.”
The best news for the Tigers is that he’s just getting started.
A redshirt freshman, Wing has been kicking a ball since he was 5 years old. But he didn’t kick a football until two years ago. For that matter, he knew very little about American football, period, and what he did know was about the NFL.
“I probably could have named three or four quarterbacks,” Wing said. “I definitely didn’t know about college football. I’m still learning all the rules. I still don’t know them all, but we’ll get there, I think.”
Wing had a 44-yard touchdown run on a fake punt nullified against Florida earlier this season when he briefly stuck out his arms to celebrate before crossing the goal line.
Even though the call was borderline at best, Wing is quick to add, “I learned that rule pretty quick. I’ve got that one down.”
He’s still adjusting to the spiral style of punting, but has the pooch kicks down pat.
“That kick is my Australian kick, the kick we use to pass around to one another, so I’m very comfortable with that kick,” Wing said. “That’s the type of kick I’ve been doing ever since I could stand up. That’s why I look so relaxed.
“I’m still working on the consistency of the longer kick, but am more comfortable with the end-over-end kick.”
Just in the last few weeks, Wing’s family moved to Baton Rouge from Australia to be with him during his college career. His father along with his mother, Kathleen, and younger brother, Tom, are digging the whole college football experience every bit as much as Wing.
“They’re beginning to understand just how big a deal college football is in the United States,” Wing said.
That’s fitting because it didn’t take Wing long to understand just how big a deal the kicking game is at LSU.
“Special teams are huge around here,” Wing said. “We start off every single day with special teams. Coach Miles really holds special teams in high regard, and we take it just as serious as an offensive or defensive snap.
“Guys are fighting to get on special teams here, and we take huge pride in it.”