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Miami Hurricanes 2021 Player Profile: P Lou Hedley

Hurricane Hedley hopes to continue the hype from his 2019 Signing Day and Success on the Field with National Acclaim

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Virginia Tech v Miami Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

When punter Louis Hedley stole the show after becoming a Cane in February 2019, he instantly became a Miami favorite and internet sensation (and technically the first signee in the Manny Diaz era due to the time zone difference).

The 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, the previous season, 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, in his debut season, 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.

The momentum continued into Hedley’s second season at the U where he was not only one of the best statistical punters in the nation boasting a Ray Guy Finalist selection (top three punter in the nation), but as a leader on and off the field in the oft-forgotten third phase of the game.

Beyond the field, there is a lot more depth to Lou than just “the punter with the tattoos.” In fact, throughout this offseason, Hedley has frequently been spotted at Canes’ community service-based events. Most recently, even though Hedley is unable to benefit from NCAA NIL due to rules related to international players, he was out in the South Florida community to support his fellow teammates who were promoting an event.

It is acts like this, away from his prowess on the field, that have made Hedley a team favorite since day one. And this off-the-field selflessness made Hedley the first Cane featured on the King and Ragone Show (Podcast by D’Eriq King and Ryan Ragone), where he spoke all about his experiences in Australia and America.

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.

Hedley also played Australian football in high school but dropped out and opted to enter the workforce as a scaffolder in the Australian desert. In fact, when Hedley ultimately made the decision to transition to American football, he found himself at a crossroads: 1) travel the world through Europe as a scaffolder, which he had done for the preceding eight years or 2) try to make it as an American football punter. Needless to say, Hedley bet on himself and went with the latter.

The path from Australian Rules Football to American Football is not an uncommon one through the transition program, and is well-represented in the ACC that currently has three other Australian Rules Football players as punters - Kirk Christodoulou (Pitt), Mark Vassett (Louisville), and Alex Mastrommano (FSU) - as well as a slew of recent ACC graduates/transfers such as Mackenzie Morgan (NC State transfer to Weber State) and Oscar Bradburn (Virginia Tech graduate). Last year, the Miami-Pitt game consisting of Hedley vs. Christodoulou was one of the best punting battles.

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. It must be noted that Hedley’s debut at City College of San Francisco came roughly a week after traveling 30 hours from Australia and, in turn, included limited preparation time (his training prior to this was predominantly watching YouTube tutorial videos). Thereafter, following a redshirt season, his path ascended as he received interest from Texas Tech, Mississippi State, and West Virginia, but he has proudly thrown up the U since his signing day.

Before his emergence on the college football scene, Hedley also took part in a tattoo shop in Bali, where he would travel on a monthly basis (this adds more background to his interest in tattoos). Hedley also has a 3-year old son named Loki. Much like Hedley, Loki is a favorite among fellow Canes, as was mentioned on the King and Ragone appearance. Hedley strives to raise Loki by way of example through his hard work.

Success at the U

In his first couple years 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.

As far as his statistical punting for the Canes, Hedley kicked the ball 64 times his freshman year, averaging 43.9 yards per punt. In his Sophomore campaign, Hedley improved to an average of 47.2 yards per punt, finishing only behind 2021 seventh round pick out of Georgia Tech, Presley Harvin III. While he has proven to be a finesse punter with 35 boots inside the 20-yard line over two seasons (31% of punts), he has a long of 67 and an average of 45.3 yards per punt.

For the Hurricanes, this pivotal change in field position has been 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 formed a special bond with current Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Jose Borregales, as Hedley took on placeholding duties for the 2020 Lou Groza Award winner. The duo comprised the most formidable special teams combination in all of college football. He will continue to occupy the placeholding spot for Jose’s brother and freshman, Andres Borregales, in 2021.

Hedley has also gained trust in QB D’Eriq King, as the two mentioned on the podcast that the punter-quarterback relationship is an often-overlooked one. Now. after stalled offensive drives, King knows he has Hedley ready to pin the opponent by way of the special teams’ hidden yardage battle.

Expectations for 2021

Before Hedley’s arrival, 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.

Even though he has been ascending at a rapid rate, 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.

The expectations are indubitably heightened this year as Hedley strives to be the best punter in the nation. Last year, Hedley was not only a Ray Guy Award Finalist, but also Second Team All-ACC and voted Second Team All-American according to the Associated Press. Hedley appears to be the favorite after Harvin III was drafted, but Georgia’ Jake Camarda is a strong returnee who could challenge Hedley as one of the country’s best. However, Hedley has already been named to the Ray Guy Watch List, Walter Camp Preseason All-American First Team, and Pre-Season All-ACC First Team - the pre-season accolades should continue for someone who was snubbed from the Ray Guy Watch List last season.

Much like Hedley’s hang time on punts, the sky is the limit for the Aussie product who hopes to boot his way into the NFL. When it’s all said and done, Hedley could become one of the most decorated punters in Miami history - and not just because of his tattoos.