For a month at a time, Louis Hedley would find himself in the deserts of Australia. His chances at making a living playing Australian rules football were fading, so Hedley found employment in construction, working as a scaffolder across his home country. He would spend a week home in Mandurah, then fly out somewhere in the desert to spend a month working.
Hedley spent eight years living this life as he hung on by a thread to his dream of one day playing in the Australian Football League. He played Australian rules at a semi-professional level back home and spent time on the reserve team for Peel Thunder Football Club, which plays in the third-largest Aussie rules league in the country.
“That’s the sort of work I was doing,” Hedley said earlier this week.
Last spring, Hedley finally decided it was time to move on to something different. Realistically, he was never going to make it to the Australian Football League, but he had a strong enough leg to perhaps make it in American football. A former teammate suggested he look into Prokick Australia, an organization specializing in training Australians to be punters. Hedley decided to give it a shot.
Just a few months in to the new venture, Hedley landed at College of San Francisco, a junior college program, and Nov. 4 he found his Division I home when he committed to the Miami Hurricanes immediately after earning an offer. Hedley will sign in the next few months — he’s not sure if he will in December or February — and join Miami in the summer, when he will arrive with three seasons of eligibility remaining.
Even for one of these late-to-football Australian imports, Hedley’s career has come together quickly. Prokick rushed him to City College and he arrived in San Francisco just three days before the Rams’ 2017 season began. After a promising freshman year, Hedley is redshirting this season to maintain as much eligibility as possible for when he makes the leap to the FBS level. His average of 38.6 yards on 45 punts as a newbie was enough to catch the eye of the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Hurricanes, and ultimately land an offer from Miami.
“I have confidence in my talent, and I thought it’d be best for me to redshirt this year,” Hedley said, “so I’m happy with that decision.”
The first time Hedley ever watched a football game it was from the sidelines in California. City College lost a close game to Oakland’s Laney College last September and Hedley punted six times. Hedley only knew when he was supposed to punt because he bought a Madden NFL video game ahead of time to study when the punters are supposed to take the field.
In Aussie rules, Hedley played full back, a pure defensive position, which plays in the center of the field all the way back near his own team’s end line. He had to tackle, but he was also entrusted to clear the ball with massive punts. Even if he was never a complete enough player to get a chance in AFL, Hedley always held a reputation as one of the biggest kickers in the country, and he learned there was a market for his skill overseas.
Friends and teammates always told Hedley he should think about American football, he just never knew how to go about it until one friend finally pointed Hedley to Prokick.
He worked with Seattle Seahawks punter Michael Dickson, then with the Texas Longhorns, in Melbourne. He speaks with Philadelphia Eagles punter Cameron Johnston, then with the Ohio State Buckeyes, on a regular basis. Hedley flashed enough promise in just a few months for Prokick’s coachees to suggest he look into junior colleges in the United States.
“It’s a big commitment coming over here for 18 months,” Hedley said, “but as soon as I decided to come over here, I haven’t looked back and it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done.”
Even for someone who knew almost nothing about college football 18 months ago, Hedley was able to pinpoint the Hurricanes as a dream destination early on.
Mandurah is a beach town and Hedley called it “torture” to be so close to the ocean in San Francisco, but unable to swim in it frequently because of the weather. He always told people he would like to wind up in Miami and in the coming months he’ll finally make it.
“You look at old videos and just the weather, the beaches,” Hedley said. “It sort of suits my lifestyle.”
Friday night (high)lights
▪ Larry Hodges helped Tampa Jesuit start the postseason off strong with a 44-0 rout of Arcadia DeSoto County. The three-star tight end caught two passes for 42 yards and a touchdown in the win.
▪ Booker T. Washington’s defensive line tormented Orlando Evans in a 34-0 shutout Friday. Donell Harris, a 5-star defensive end committed to the Hurricanes’ top-ranked Class of 2021, recorded two of the Tornadoes’ 11 sacks in the win. Booker T. Washington also recovered two fumbles.
▪ Vero Beach’s defense also started the postseason strong in a 48-6 blowout of Kissimmee Gateway. Four-star defensive end Jahfari Harvey logged five tackles, including one tackle for a loss, in the win. The Indians finished the game with one sack and blocked a kick.
▪ Jarvis Brownlee continued his lockdown season for Carol City in a 34-0 shutout of Norland in the opening round of the postseason.
▪ South Dade’s defense, with the help of Miami 2020 commits Keshawn Washington and Jaiden Francois, put on a show in a 49-14 pounding of Hialeah. The Buccaneers scored a pair of defensive touchdowns on fumble recoveries.