As far as Josh Growden is concerned, there is no pressure following in the footsteps of the first two Australian punters for the LSU football team.
Brad Wing and Jamie Keehn have come and gone, leaving a Down Under legacy that Growden will continue as the Tigers’ new punter this season — the sixth in a row that will feature an Aussie at the position.
While he knows he has some big kicking shoes to fill right away, Growden also realizes he has to make his own way just like his countrymen — Wing and Keehn — did before him in Baton Rouge.
“Yeah, I feel a little bit like I have a legacy to continue here. … But I’m not going to put any extra pressure on myself,” Growden said last week. “Brad and Jamie were great punters, but I just have to go out there and do my own thing.
"I have to be the best I can be and not try to live up to what they’ve done.”
At the same time, Growden is thinking about the Aussie legacy before he puts his foot into the ball officially for the first time as a redshirt freshman after serving as an apprentice to Keehn last fall.
“I want to make sure I can get someone from Australia to come in and follow us,” he said with a smile. “If I do well for the next four years, someone might want to come over here and do the same thing.”
There’s a pretty good chance that will happen, considering Growden, who will also serve as the holder for kicker Colby Delahoussaye, followed Keehn over from the Melbourne-based ProKick Australia camp run by Nathan Chapman and former New England Patriots kicker John Smith.
It was there two years ago that Growden’s improbable dream of playing Division I football in the United States began to materialize when Keehn returned home and the two worked out at ProKick.
Keehn had just completed his first full season as LSU’s starting punter, one year after he and Wing, who now plays for the New York Giants, shared the duties in 2012.
“I was training there, and he came in that summer and I met him,” said Growden, who had a three-year stint in Australian rules football before going to ProKick Australia. “After that, we stayed in touch until I came over here.”
Meeting Keehn, who went on to average 44.9 yards per kick with 17 punts of 50-plus yards that season, was extremely fortuitous for Growden.
The Sydney native sent tape to the LSU coaches and later got an endorsement from Keehn, which apparently went a long way to Growden receiving a scholarship offer just two days after Christmas.
“Jamie said, ‘Look, this is a pretty good guy and you should take him,’ ” Growden said of his journey to LSU. “I was over the moon (when they offered).”
Two years later, Les Miles and his staff would be pleased to get from Growden what they got from Wing and Keehn, who is trying to catch on with an NFL team.
In two seasons with the Tigers, Wing averaged 44.6 yards with 39 kicks of 50 yards or more; Keehn followed that up by averaging 42.6 yards for his four-year career with 39 punts of 50 yards or more.
Growden said while he doesn’t have a booming leg like Wing and Keehn, he makes up for it with consistency.
“I pride myself on being consistent,” he said. “In the spring, I thought we got a lot done and the guys were looking good on coverage and things like that. I was kicking it good, so we’re looking forward to the season.
“I’ve gotten the kicks down, like the back-up punts and Aussies (pinning teams inside the 10) going in,” Growden added. “When you’re at this level, you’d like to think it’s all about getting that consistency going. It’s pretty much every day doing something to help yourself.”
LSU’s Down Under punters year-by-year
Year Name No. Avg. LG TB FC I20 50+
2011 Brad Wing 59 44.4 73 5 15 27 20
2012 Brad Wing 59 44.8 69 10 17 21 19
2012 Jamie Keehn 12 43.7 58 1 5 3 6
2013 Jamie Keehn 43 41.0 58 4 8 18 10
2014 Jamie Keehn 71 44.9 64 3 25 27 17
2015 Jamie Keehn 58 40.7 63 5 21 18 6