Scanning over the past four seasons, the Steelers have cycled through six different punters including Brad Wing, Zoltan Mesko, Drew Butler, Jeremy Kapinos, Mat McBriar and Daniel Sepulveda, who opened some eyes when the team made him it’s fourth round pick in 2007.
Wing now has some competition on the team from the newly-signed Jordan Berry out of Eastern Kentucky, although they both have more in common than meets the eye. Both are native Australians, with Wing hailing from Melbourne and Berry from Essendon. Surprisingly the two had yet to meet until Berry was signed in April, after a little help by former Steelers’ great, Dermontti Dawson, a part of the team who represents Berry.
Once training camp ensues here in a few short weeks at Saint Vincent College, it’ll be the first time in league history that two Australian-born players are on the same roster, as both look to unseat the other.
It may seem a bit unorthodox or out of the ordinary, but it’s something Wing is used to, where his alma mater of LSU recruited another “Aussie” to fill his shoes. Now, he’ll be facing some competition from another in Berry.
This line of work is the preferred one for Berry, who prior to being signed, was working the overnight shift at McDonald’s.
“That wasn’t very fun,” Berry said, according to Kaboly. “I wasn’t a big fan of working that time of night.”
A four-year starter at EKU, Berry wasn’t signed by a team after the draft, so he ultimately ended up back home, where he began flipping burgers. While at McDonald’s, Berry continued perfecting his craft, working with ProKick Australia, a punting school, where he worked on changing his technique from the low-hanging punts commonly used in the Australian Football League, to the NFL-style ones, with loads of hang-time and direction.
After saving up enough money to make it back to the U.S. for a shot at making a ball club, he got his shot with Pittsburgh. If recent history is a barometer, Berry’s confidence should be through the roof, considering the team hasn’t had the same punter for two consecutive seasons since Chris Gardocki back in 2005 and 2006.
Last year with Wing, the team wasn’t exactly near the top when it came to punting. They ranked 25th in net punt yards, 28th in average and 28th in kicks inside the 20, which combined was worse than 2013. Perhaps some new blood is needed, and if Berry can hold off Wing in training camp, he could find himself with a starting gig. That’s a long way from the graveyard shift working minimum wage at McDonald’s.
“Over the last eight months, I have been working more on hang time and directional stuff because that’s what coaches are after at this level,” Berry said, according to Kaboly. “There is an opportunity here, but at the same time, there is a guy who already has the job. I have to go out and do what I can do and win the job.”