UConn's Australian Punter
Solid Debut Goes Sour
On Aug. 14, two months after Connecticut had given freshman punter Adam Coles a football scholarship, he put on a helmet and shoulder pads for the first time. Last Saturday at Eastern Michigan, after averaging 41.1 yards on his first seven punts, the left-footed Coles, a 24-year-old native of Sydney, discovered what it's like to kick from his end zone with 3:54 left and his team trying to protect a 25-24 lead. Coles's eighth punt slid off his foot and went seven yards to the UConn 17. Six plays later, the Eagles scored a touchdown and won 32-25. "I didn't think I was capable of such a bad punt," he said.
After playing one season of Australian Rules Football for the Sydney Swans, the 6'5", 220-pound Coles entered a punting contest sponsored by the NFL in 1998. He won the Sydney-area competition and wound up finishing second nationally. Last year Coles borrowed money from his parents to relocate to South Florida and train with Dolphins kicking coach Doug Blevins. He then sent tapes of his workouts to several colleges. UConn was the only school to offer him a scholarship.
UConn special teams coach Lyndon Johnson was impressed by how rapidly Coles learned to kick a football that is smaller and lighter than the one used in Australia. "He's not as raw as you'd think," says Johnson. "He wants to understand the game."
Coles understands it all too well now. "I'm lost for words," he said last Saturday night. "The guys were great to me about it. That sort of makes it harder. I wish they'd really get on me."