The New Orleans Saints pulled off a shocker this week by favoring two rookies in the kicking and punting battles. After losing Thomas Morstead a couple of years ago, the Saints thought they found their next long-term option at the position in Blake Gillikin. In two seasons, he averaged 43.1-yards per punt with 61 punts inside of the 20-yard line. Despite ranking 15th in net yards and 4th in punts inside the 20 last season, the Saints decided to move on.
Insert Lou Hedley, a 30-year-old rookie punter from Australia who spent his last four seasons as a member of the Miami Hurricanes. In his collegiate career, Hedley averaged a staggering 45.2 yards per punt, which would’ve been good enough to rank second in the NFL last season.
Not only is Hedley really good at punting, but he also has one of the most intriguing back stories in all of the NFL.
Born in Australia, Hedley grew up playing Aussie Rules Football. He was really good at kicking, but lacked some of the other traits it took to be a professional in Australia, so, after a few years of working in various places, he packed his things and moved to San Fransisco to punt for the City College of San Fransisco. After one season there, he transferred to the University of Miami (FL) and was a four-year starter for the Hurricanes.
Hedley would go undrafted and eventually sign with the Saints after the draft, officially starting the training camp punting battle. After 11 punts and a 42.7-yard net average in the preseason, Hedley was named the starter for the Saints for the 2023 season.
Okay, enough about football, here’s where his story gets really interesting.
In his youth, Hedley decided to drop out of high school and take up a job in scaffolding. There, he spent seven years of his life in a harness working on a multitude of different job sites. In 2019, Bleacher Report’s Adam Kramer did an interview with Hedley where he further expanded on his time as a scaffolder:
“I pretty much lived in a harness way off the ground for seven years of my life,” Hedley says. “It was all good fun, and it allowed me to stay fit while I worked. Plus, it was great money, and I didn’t have time to spend any of it.”
During his time scaffolding, Hedley found his love for tattoos. With seven years of savings, he and his friend purchased a tattoo shop in Bali, Indonesia. There, the friends would spend time doing two things that he loved. Surfing and tattooing.
Still, despite living in the beautiful country of Indonesia, tattooing and surfing, the need for sports always lingered in the back of his head. After some time in Bali, Hedley decided he wanted to give professional sports one more shot, so he entered his name into a program that helps streamline Australian kickers to college programs, and that was when he was offered a spot at the City College of San Fransisco.
Now, six years later, Hedley’s dream of playing professional sports came to fruition. All of his hard work paid off, and he is now the starting punter for the New Orleans Saints. Hopefully the Saints won’t need to use him much, but when he finally trots out onto the field, he’ll already be amongst the league's best.
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