Eye Of The Tiger: Brad Wing (and son) return to LSU

Posted Sep 16, 2016

“Meet us by Mike the Tiger,” Brad Wing told us. “Bentley likes to see him.”

“OK,” we replied, assuming the Giants' punter meant one of the dozen statues guarding the Louisiana State University campus. A quick google search by non-LSU grads confirmed that was indeed the name of the school’s mascot. So our intrepid production crew left the hotel in Baton Rouge and headed to Tiger Stadium. We arrived at Champions Plaza, a logical choice we thought. There stood Mike, frozen in attack position and ready to pounce on any Alabama fan who comes within 100 yards of the school’s plaques honoring the best teams and individuals in the history of the program.

Wing came walking up hand-in-hand with Bentley, his son.

“No, there’s a real one,” Wing said with his native Australian accent. And he didn’t mean some freshman in a tiger costume, either. He meant a living, breathing tiger.

So the father and son led the way to Mike the Tiger’s habitat. Bentley, about to turn 3 years old at the time, already knew the way because they’ve made the same walk every day his dad has been there training in the offseason. It’s their bonding ritual.

Bentley is as fearless as Mike, plowing through a campus tour and getting face-to-face with the sleeping tiger.

“When I compare my pictures when I was that age to him, it’s scary how similar him and I are,” Wing said. “He’s a little more outgoing than I was, I think. He’s something else. He’s something else, for sure.”

He was talking about Bentley, of course, and not Mike. However, they do share some similarities. LSU is their adopted home in their adopted country.

Born in Melbourne, Wing moved to the United States as an exchange student. He graduated from Parkview Baptist High School in Baton Rouge, where he lettered in his only season playing football and was a Class 3A first-team all-state selection in 2009. Wing boomed a season-best 73-yard punt from his own end zone against Acadiana that year en route to being named the No. 5 kicker in the nation by Rivals.com. That was good enough for head coach Les Miles, who offered him a scholarship to play at LSU.

He accepted.

“When I moved here, my friends were like, ‘We’re going to go to a college football game,’” Wing recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh yeah, cool, there will be a couple people there.’ I get here and let me tell you, they take tailgating to a whole new level down here, man. It’s like you’ll have 100,000 people in the parking lot tailgating and then another 100,000 in the stadium going crazy.”

 

Wing grew up playing Australian Rules football in Melbourne, just like his father David, who spent time with the Detroit Lions in 1990 and punted for the Scottish Claymores of NFL Europe. But none of that prepared him for a college football Saturday.

“I had no idea about college sports or football or anything like that,” Wing said. “It was really amazing and so I quickly fell in love with this place, fell in love with LSU and the football. As soon as they offered me and showed interest in me, I couldn’t have been happier. Then just being here, it’s such a good, pretty campus and it’s such a great environment during football season, the best fans in the country. And I think this will always have a special place in my heart. I come back here every offseason and spend a lot of time here.”

After waving goodbye to Mike, Wing and his son strolled back through Champions Plaza and stopped at the Recognition Wall. All the while, Wing had been quizzing Bentley on his alphabet. Bentley already had mastered L, S and U, so on this day he’s working on the letter B.

He spotted one.

BRAD WING, PUNTER, ALL-SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE FIRST TEAM, 2011.

In that 2011 season, Wing burst onto the college scene with a phenomenal redshirt freshman campaign and became just the second punter in LSU history to earn first team All-America honors. He averaged 44.4 yards per punt, which ranked fourth in school history. That included a season-long 73-yarder at rival Alabama, which was the third-longest punt in school history.

“It’s crazy just because when I was here I never really thought that any of that would happen, you know,” Wing said. “I mean, this will be here forever. I remember when I was here walking around and seeing all the other plaques. For my name to be up here, I mean, look at these other names here.”

 

The wall includes other members of the LSU-NYG pipeline.

ODELL BECKHAM JR., ALL-PURPOSE/RETURN SPECIALIST, ALL-SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE FIRST TEAM, 2013.

COREY WEBSTER, CORNERBACK, ALL-SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE FIRST TEAM, 2002, 2003, 2004.

“It’s good company,” Wing added. “So it’s cool. It’s very cool to see that, and I think it’s cool to show him. When he’s old enough to understand it all, I think he’ll appreciate it.”

More notoriously, Wing became the first player in college football to have a touchdown negated because of a new unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. He was called for taunting during a 44-yard run on a fake punt against Florida, another SEC rival. And as you might imagine, the play generated more than a million views on YouTube and elevated the Aussie import to rock star status around campus. That is, to everyone but his head coach.

“I get a lot of trouble for that still to this day,” Wing said with a grin. “Everyone likes to joke about that.”

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It’s crazy just because when I was here I never really thought that any of that would happen, you know. I mean, this will be here forever.

But that didn’t overshadow an impressive career by any means. Wing’s 44.6-yard career average ranked first in school history, while 48 of his 118 punts were downed inside the 20-yard line and 39 punts traveled 50 yards or more. He also owns two of the top five single-season punting averages in school history, which led him to forgo his final two years at LSU and enter the NFL Draft following his sophomore season in 2012.

Wing wouldn’t hear his name called, however. He signed on with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent and was cut shortly before the 2013 regular season began. A year later, he made an NFL roster for the first time with the Pittsburgh Steelers. His first career punt traveled 56 yards as he went on to play all 16 games in 2014 and one postseason contest for Pittsburgh. His 43.7-yard gross average, 38.8-yard net average, 20 kicks inside the 20-yard line, and a long punt of 74 yards caught the attention of the Giants, who traded a conditional seventh-round draft pick for him and released veteran Steve Weatherford nine days before the 2015 season began.

In his first season with the Giants, Wing placed 33 punts inside the 20, tying the franchise’s single-season record, set by Brad Maynard in both 1997 and 1998. The Giants showed their faith in Wing over the offseason by signing him to a contract extension through the 2019 season.

“It’s good just to come back to where it all started,” Wing said, wrapping up his daily tour with Bentley. “The journey is still going and it is a fun journey, but there’s nothing like coming back home and sharing it with this little guy here because one day he’s going to grow up and be in that stadium watching the games. I just want to try and give him as much as I can.”

Meanwhile, there’s one rule in the Wing household.

“He doesn’t have to go to LSU. He’s just not allowed to go to Alabama. That’s the only rule -- no ‘Bama.”

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