When punter Louis Hedley stole the show after becoming a Cane in February 2019, he instantly became a Miami favorite and internet sensation.
The 26-year old Australian native burst onto the media scene immediately after his Signing Day photo went viral. At that point, the Canes needed help in multiple areas so the 6’4”, 234lb product looked like he could assist from anywhere from Linebacker to Tight End. However, Hedley was coming in to assist in an area where the Canes were absolutely atrocious in the preceding years - Punting. Specifically, they had ranked below 100th out of 130 in back-to-back seasons in punting efficiency according to Football Outsiders metrics.
Hedley looks like an intimidating and scary dude with his physique and tattoos across his neck and arms. However, he was one of the brightest delights during an otherwise disappointing 2019 season and a positive influence in the locker room as he was awarded the Canes Special Teams MVP in his first year.
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— Lou Hedley (@LouHedleyy) February 6, 2019
The Path from Down Under
Hedley is originally from Mandurah, Australia, which is located in Western Australia near Perth. Hedley played as an Australian Rules Football Player for the Peel Thunder Football Club in ProKick Australia as a semi-pro player. He specialized as a defender, which includes a lot of tackling but also includes an element of kicking. The path from Australian Rules Football to American Football is not an uncommon one, which is well-represented in the ACC that currently has three other Australian Rules Football players as punters - Oscar Bradburn (Virginia Tech), Mackenzie Morgan (NC State), and Kirk Christodoulou (Pitt).
After playing ProKick Australia, Hedley played for City College of San Francisco in 2017 where he averaged an unremarkable 38.6 yard per punt, but included finesse punts, pinning the opponent inside the 20-yard line on eight occasions. Thereafter, he received interest from Texas Tech, Mississippi State, and West Virginia but has proudly thrown up the U since his signing day.
Hedely also has 2-year old son named Loki and, on the side according to the Miami Herald, Hedley spent eight years working as a scaffolder in the Australian desert before coming to the United States.
First Year with the U
In his first year as part of the Canes’ organization, Hedley showed versatility at the Punter position as he trains in both spiral and rollout punts, but predominantly works out of the spirals. He also displays some athleticism as he rushed for 75 yards on three designed fake punts with City College of San Francisco, including a 56-yard scamper.
Working both styles today. Looking forward to this weekends official visit #itsallabouttheU #surge19 pic.twitter.com/takF57suaA— Lou Hedley (@LouHedleyy) December 11, 2018
As far as his punting went for the Canes, he kicked the ball 64 times, averaging 43.9 yards per punt. While he has proven to be more of a finesse punter with 21 boots inside the 20-yard line, he had a long of 67 and a net average of 40.6 yards per punt. The 43.9 yard average put him as 32nd in the nation and 6th in the ACC.
For the Hurricanes, this pivotal change in field position was a marked improvement from what they experienced the two years prior. In 2018, the 64 punts by Canes players traveled an average of 38.2 yards per punt, at a net average of 34.5 yards. In 2017, 74 punts went and average of 38.7 yards per punt, with a net average of 36.2 yards. Football is a game of field position, which starts with the special teams, and Miami was often left behind the eight ball trying to dig their way out of poor positioning after punts that essentially went directly sideways.
Even more, Hedley ended up being named the Special Teams MVP for the Canes. As a first year addition to the struggling organization, this is a huge step in the right direction.
Congratulations to Australia's @LouHedleyy, who has been named the @CanesFootball Special Teams MVP. pic.twitter.com/gZyWXfhoY9— ESPN Australia & NZ (@ESPNAusNZ) December 16, 2019
Expectations for 2020
Prior to Hedley, the Canes rolled out Zach Feagles for their punting duties, who often shanked the ball, including in pivotal moments. Thus, improvement was expected at the punter position regardless of who took on the job. However, prior to Feagles, the Canes had a long lineage of solid punters.
Miami had Justin Vogel in 2017, who ended up having stints with the Packers, Brown, 49ers, and Broncos in the NFL as an undrafted free agent. Prior to Vogel, the Canes had Pat O’Donnell, who handled punting duties in 2013 as a transfer from Cincinnati and ended up being drafted in the sixth round by the Chicago Bears, where he remains their punter and kickoff specialist. Before that, Matt Bosher punted for the Canes from 2007-2010, prior to being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the sixth round, where he continues to handle their punting duties. And, years before that in the late-1980’s, Jeff Feagles was the punter for the Canes, where he ended up being inducted into the University of Miami Hall of Fame and is currently considered one of the best punters of all-time.
A lot of Hedley’s potential remains untapped as he only had three months of experience kicking an American football prior to coming to America.
In addition, it appears Hedley has been handling placeholding duties this offseason leading up to the 2020 season. This will be even more important this upcoming season after an atrocious display from the field goal unit in 2019. He even spent some time recently training with Miami great, Braxton Berrios, so maybe we will even see him on some crossing patterns should the Canes trickery unit decide to get overzealous.
Regardless of how he is utilized, Hedley has been a strong addition to overhaul a struggling special teams/punting group. Moving forward for his final two years of eligibility, it should not be a surprise if he is included on the Ray Guy Watch List this year, which is scheduled to be released on July 24th - an end-of-season award presented to college football’s most outstanding punter. Thereafter, the sky is the limit for the Aussie product who hopes to boot his way into the NFL.