Punters are not cool.
This is a fact so inherent to the sport that it warrants no explanation or analysis. In a game called football, the guys who use their feet are the least worthy of adoration. Ironic, but inarguable.
Then, on the second (and far less anticipated) national signing day of the offseason, something odd happened: A punter stole the show.
Louis Hedley: Miami punter, Australian, icon.
It's official!! I'm a cane😍🙌🏽 Thank you to everyone that has helped me get to this point. 🗣LETS GOO!! 3️⃣0️⃣5️⃣ #TNM #BEATUF @CanesFootball @ProkickAus @Coach_MannyDiaz @JohnnyPKA @CoachKalter @CoachKalter @67outlaw @CCSFFootball @tweetiebeattie @richiehedley pic.twitter.com/0kQj7a9Uh4— Louis Hedley (@LouisHedley1) February 6, 2019
He wore a black tank top, and it's hard to envision a scenario in which his biceps have ever been hidden by sleeves. His arms and neck are covered in tattoos, a fresco worthy of Michelangelo, if Michelangelo had painted the ceiling of a trailer parked outside Hard Rock Stadium instead of the Sistine Chapel. He wore a black hat pulled low and a mustache worthy of the star of a 1970s TV cop show. He'd come to change our perception of punters forever.
In fairness, Hedley did not adopt this look to upend the narrative surrounding punters. The guy hadn't even seen an American football game until he played in his first one, punting for City College of San Francisco two years ago. Hedley is the latest in an increasingly long line of Australians moving from Aussie rules football to punting in the U.S., but it's safe to say no one has made quite the impression he did upon arrival.
"Coolest Looking Punter Ever," one headline read. "Your dad's scariest coworker," another touted. He was called "jacked," "inked" and "lit," which sounds more like the worst way to order hash browns at Waffle House than the description of a punter.
"Me and my mates had a good laugh about all the publicity and comments," Hedley said of his sudden viral fame, which extended around the globe and made him a sensation even in Australia.
It's worthy of a chuckle from Hedley, but his story offers some important lessons for other punters around the country. Want to be taken seriously? Want internet fame? Want the rest of the guys on the team to fear your very presence? Hedley has offered the blueprint.
Step 1: Start early
Hedley got his first tattoo at age 15. He's 25 now. That's given him a full decade to fill out the canvas. This defies the more traditional path, in which punters arrive straight from high school and rarely have tattoos before getting a driver's license.
Step 2: Work hard
Hedley spent eight years working as a scaffolder in the Australian desert. Granted, this is not great training for improving hang time, but it does create a certain appreciation for the value of a day's work. After that, a few extra hours in the weight room don't seem so bad.
Step 3: Control the narrative
Hedley weighs 235 pounds. Several media outlets reported he was 215, and he wants this information corrected. If Miami's punter is going to weigh the same as its strongside linebacker, the world needs to know.
Step 4: See the world
After saving up a little money, Hedley and his friends decided to buy a villa in Bali. The phrase "villa in Bali" does not appear in the bio for any other FBS punters. This hasn't been fact-checked, but it seems self-evident. "It's good fun to go experience other countries like that," Hedley said. "And when you go spend a couple years in a place like that, it gives you perspective." More punters need perspective.
Step 5: Own a business
While in Bali, Hedley bought a tattoo shop. This is where the ink really started to add up. The tattoos were free, so he got a lot of them. Which one is the most meaningful? That's a tough question. "All my tattoos are pretty random," he said. "I got them when I was pretty young, so it's sort of a young-minded thing. So they're not really meaningful." It's important for punters not to overthink things.
Step 6: Envision your future
Hedley knew nothing of American football, but he knew of The U, so when a few friends who'd played stateside suggested Hedley might have a shot at punting, he decided there was nowhere he'd rather play than Miami. "Coach [Todd] Hartley contacted me," Hedley said, "and it was sort of a dream come true."
Step 7: Don't let the little things stand in your way
Hedley landed at ProKick Australia after a brief tryout. Three months later, he was off to San Francisco for junior college, despite some concerns about how he'd afford it. After two years there, he chose Miami. He's never actually met head coach Manny Diaz in person, but he's heard good things. Diaz did tweet a gif of a kangaroo when Hedley signed, so there's an obvious rapport.
Step 8: Don't play all your cards at once
The most painful of Hedley's tattoos? That one's on his scalp. It's of a panther with arrows going through its head and a hand holding the world. He's grown out his hair, so it's been kept secret so far, but "I might have to shave my head before I get to Miami to get that out there," he said.
Step 9: Pick the right place to play
Hedley's used to getting stares. You don't look like he does and fly beneath the radar. But he's also heading to Miami, where a little ink and a stylish mustache don't exactly stand out from the crowd. "It's hard to shock anyone here in Miami," Diaz said. "You have to do something really special."
If that's meant as a challenge, we're incredibly excited to see what Hedley does next.