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Australian punter David Lonie (Cal signee)


Fired up! Ready to go!
I found this article about David Lonie, the Australian punter we recruited last year. I didn't realize that he didn't qualify academically at OSU.

Aussie David Lonie fitting in well as Cal's new punter

By JANIE McCAULEY, AP Sports Writer
September 9, 2004
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- David Lonie had never considered kicking a football.

He preferred the non-traditional daredevil athletic pursuits, spending his time surfing, spear fishing, water skiing, snowboarding and riding horses. He traveled the world doing them.

Not until he came from his native Australia to coach at a summer sports camp in the United States in 1999 did playing football became an option.

Now, he's the popular new punter for No. 12 California.

It was at the camp that he met a punter headed to Drake on scholarship.

"I was out-kicking him,'' Lonie said with a smile this week as the Golden Bears prepared for their home opener Saturday against New Mexico State.

The camp director noticed, and suggested Lonie pursue it further by going to Cincinnati to work out with his friend Doug Pelfrey, then with the Bengals.

It didn't take much convincing. We're talking about somebody who's seemingly up for anything.

Lonie became hooked. It certainly helped that he's 6-foot-6 and 200 pounds -- almost massive proportions when it comes to punters.

With his California good looks and his speech peppered with trademark Aussie phrases such as "No worries,'' Lonie fits in perfectly in the zany Cal community.

Back home, he played soccer, water polo and competed in track and field. He modeled for a golf magazine, and worked all sorts of odd jobs to make money to fund his trips -- construction, security and selling skis. He's been to about a dozen countries, going solo and making friends along the way.

It hasn't taken him long here.

His teammates refer to him as Zoolander, Thunder from Down Under and Aus-struck.

"It's just a good vibe,'' Lonie said of being around the Golden Bears. "The guys are down to earth. It's laid back, similar to Australia.''

Third-year California coach Jeff Tedford -- no-nonsense, always intense and basically the opposite of his punter -- was so interested in Lonie that he took a 34-hour round-trip flight to Australia just to meet his parents for 15 minutes. Lonie, also highly sought after by many other schools, wasn't even there at the time.

Tedford likes Lonie's maturity and life experience, and the fact he's already done so many interesting things.

"I don't think players have to be so shallow and only think about football,'' Tedford said. ``He's a more mature young man because he's well traveled and has been making his own money for so long. I told him he's going to provide leadership for this team.''

Lonie is 25 years old, but isn't getting much razzing for it because "half the guys don't even know,'' he said. He is studying education and youth culture.

He had verbally committed to Ohio State two years ago, but didn't qualify academically because some of his course work from Australia didn't comply with NCAA standards. So, Lonie enrolled at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa. He declined a chance to join the Canadian Football League because he didn't want to burn his college eligibility.

He averaged 41.8 yards per punt last season as a sophomore and converted 21 of 25 PATs -- the ones he missed were all bad snaps. He converted 11-of-19 field-goal tries.

For now, Lonie is the starting punter. But his predecessor at Cal, Tyler Fredrickson, punted, kicked off and booted field goals. Lonie's role could grow.

His teammates wouldn't mind. They liked Lonie right away during spring ball, then he played well in the Bears' 56-14 win at Air Force last week.

"He's a real good guy,'' linebacker Joe Maningo said. "Your basic first impression is he's just a fun-loving person. He carries it onto the field. His skills are tremendous. His placement really helps out the special teams and defense.

"It's crazy how the guy just came in. He was punting it from one sideline into the stands on the other side. I've never seen a punter do that. It shows his leg strength.''

Lonie hopes to take that strength to the NFL, and he wouldn't be the first Aussie to do it.

Darren Bennett punts for the Minnesota Vikings, and Aussie Nathan Chapman was cut by Green Bay last month.

Those who know Lonie wouldn't put it past him.

"I'm a quick learner,'' he said.
Just for kicks, Lonie learned how to punt
Well-traveled Aussie is in the hunt for job held by Skins' Frost


ASHBURN Travel can offer a broadening experience, but when he left Australia in 1999, David Lonie had no idea life could become this broad.

Over the past seven years, Lonie twice has worked as a water-skiing instructor in a camp in northern Wisconsin, backpacked through Europe, played professional soccer in England, surfed in Fiji, gone snowboarding in Canada, graduated from junior college in Iowa and earned a degree in education from the University of California.

Along the way, he learned to kick a football, which paid for his junior college and college education.

Before he left Australia, he was a national class decathlete and pole vaulter.

G'day mate, indeed.

His traveling days are over for now, and Lonie wants to settle down and earn a living as a punter for the Washington Redskins.

"I never thought this would happen," Lonie said. "I had barely even watched football. I didn't know the rules of the game."

The Redskins wouldn't mind having Lonie as their punter. First, though, he must show he's a better punter than Derrick Frost, who held the job last season.

Frost averaged 40.4 yards, with a net of 36.7 yards per punt. But Frost's punts gained more distance after bouncing than any punter has a right to expect in a single season.

Frost, 6-2 and 202, is not going to yield a high-paying job quietly, though. Saturday in a scrimmage against the Baltimore Ravens, Frost averaged 58 yards per punt with good hang times on three punts.

Lonie, 6-6 and 220, averaged 47 yards per punt Saturday, and he sliced one wobbler off the side of his foot.

"It's a matter of execution under pressure," special-teams coach Danny Smith said. "A lot of guys in this league can carry it out until they have to execute under pressure."

As for Lonie being young and nervous in his first professional outing, Smith shrugged and said, "He's 27 years old."

Lonie is not your typical young punter for many reasons. Not only is he from Australia, not only was he an academic All-American at California, he also is a rookie who is older than 53 of the 88 players on the Redskins' training camp roster, nine of them starters. That includes Frost, who is entering his third NFL season.

Lonie didn't kick his first football until that summer camp in Wisconsin in 1999. He did it then only because he saw the punter for Drake University working out, and Lonie thought he could do better.

When he did kick better, people told him he should take up football.

"I only tried it for a few days and didn't think much of it," Lonie said. "I actually went to Europe and played soccer and traveled for a while."

When he returned, again to the camp in Wisconsin, a friend put him in contact with Doug Pelfry, then the punter for the Cincinnati Bengals. Lonie began working with Pelfry, put together a video tape and sent it to 10 Division I college teams.

"All 10 offered me a scholarship," Lonie said. "I was going to Ohio State, but my high school classes in Australia didn't transfer. I had a choice of going to play in the CFL -- Ottawa had offered me a contract -- or junior college."

He chose Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa. After two years, he had his choice of Division I colleges again. This time, he opted for the sunshine of California over the snow of the Midwest.

At Cal, he punted and kicked off. Ideally, the Redskins would like their punter also to kick off and hold for kicks. First, though, they have to figure out who their punter will be.

In the meantime, Lonie will endure the good-natured verbal assaults of his teammates.

"They call me 'mate' and 'Mick' for Mick Dundee [from the Crocodile Dundee movies], crocodile hunter and kangaroo wrestler," Lonie said. "They tell me to throw another shrimp on the barbee. It's never ending. They're always coming up with this sort of stuff.

"It's all jokes, all good times."

Contact staff writer Paul Woody at [email protected] or (804) 649-6444.

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