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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Football

Kickin’ ain’t easy: Australian punter talks challenges, leg room and desserts


Showing little remorse for the starting field position of his opponent’s ensuing drive, Roy prepares to pin the opposition deep in its own territory. | Thomas Dwyer/The Cougar

The punter is the most unnoticed player on the football field.

For many, fourth-and-long situations represent an opportunity to gain a slight head start over fellow fans jockeying for position in concession stand and restroom lines that will soon wind endlessly throughout the concourse. When the scrawny, seemingly unathletic specialists begin their jog out onto the field, viewers in the stands or comfortably at home turn their attention elsewhere.

Houston punter Dane Roy, however, is not your average punter.

At 6-feet-7-inches and 240 pounds, Roy is changing the perception of punters with his enormous frame, charismatic personality and witty social media posts.

Roy came to Houston with a scholarship shortly after winning a kicking competition in his native Australia. After leaving his job as an ice cream salesman, he was ready to embark on the most unique of opportunities.

Upon his arrival, the 28-year-old quickly became a favorite of fans and teammates alike. After living in the United States for nearly a 1.5 years, we caught up with Roy to talk about his adjustment to U.S. culture, experiencing Hurricane Harvey and the challenges of being the tallest player on the team.

The Cougar: You faced a unique set of challenges last season when you came to the U.S from your home in Australia. Not only were you entering a new country, but add in the fact you were doing so to play big-time college football at 27 alongside 18-to-21-year olds. What was the biggest challenge?

Roy: I think just the culture change. There’s a bit of a language barrier as well. Like I’ll say words and a few guys won’t understand it, or I’ll say words that are normal to me but are considered curse words in America. The food as well — it was a bit of a shock to my body at the start.

The Cougar:  It was a crazy fall camp for you and the rest of the team. What was your experience like trying to prepare for the season before, during and after the devastation caused in the wake of Hurricane Harvey? Had you ever experienced anything like that in Australia?

Roy: Well once I could get into a routine, life was pretty easy.  The hardest adjustment really was going through fall camp, because it’s just continuous, and you can’t really get into a routine (off of the field). After fall camp we had to relocate to Austin. That was a bit of a hard adjustment, but nothing compared to what people actually went through here. We’re just playing a sport, but these people had their real lives ruined. In Australia, we call them cyclones. We had a few bad ones, and I know what they can do to communities.

The Cougar: Different players get ready for games in different ways. As a punter, what do you like to do to prepare for a game?

Roy: This season I try to keep my normal routine from waking up to getting to the stadium. Right now, I’m listening to Metallica Radio on Spotify — a bit of heavy metal just banging in there. Then I like to kick a few Aussie punts and just run around like I would warm up in Australia.

The Cougar: It’s been well-documented that prior to playing for the Cougars, you sold ice cream back home. What’s the one thing you miss most about your former job?

Roy: I miss sitting down a lot; it was pretty easy. We don’t really get time to sit around at practice unlike a lot of other specialists. You know, we Aussie punters are all over the country right now, and the others tell stories about how they get to sit down and do other stuff in practice. Also, the free ice cream. If you finish selling on the phone, you could just walk over and treat yourself to an ice cream. I just don’t get that anymore here.

The Cougar: If you had to describe this year’s team as a flavor of ice cream, what would it be?

Roy: Well, you have to stay with red and white, so one would be vanilla. Probably red velvet cake. They give that to us a lot here actually. Red velvet cake is pretty nice. It’s one of the premier type of ice cream flavors, and we’re one of the premier type of teams. We’re expecting big things this year.

The Cougar: It’s not often that teams have someone of your height playing punter. What are some of the challenges of being the tallest player on the team at 6-foot-7?

Roy: Leg room on planes, definitely. I always have to make sure they supply me with adequate leg room, preferably exit row. I was lucky enough to have a bigger plane last year, but we’ve downgraded this year for some reason. United (Airlines) must’ve jacked the prices up. Maybe they don’t want to do a deal with us anymore.

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