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Wing, Williams have Aussies ruling BCS title game

 Tattoos are shown in the arms of Alabama defensive lineman Jesse Williams as he talks with reporters during media day for the BCS championship NCAA c...
 Alabama defensive lineman Jesse Williams talks with reporters during media day for the BCS championship NCAA college football game at the Superdome i...
 LSU punter Brad Wing of Australia talks with reporters during media day for the BCS championship NCAA college football game at the Superdome in New O...

BCS Championship Football

Tattoos are shown in the arms of Alabama defensive lineman Jesse Williams as he talks with reporters during media day for the BCS championship NCAA c...

BCS Championship Football

Alabama defensive lineman Jesse Williams talks with reporters during media day for the BCS championship NCAA college football game at the Superdome i...

BCS Championship Football

LSU punter Brad Wing of Australia talks with reporters during media day for the BCS championship NCAA college football game at the Superdome in New O...

Brad Wing told his friends back in Melbourne to Google "Tiger Stadium." Jesse Williams tried to explain what college football is like to his pals in Brisbane by describing what Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is like on an autumn Saturday.
"I wouldn't say crazy, that's a little mean," he said. "On another level, definitely."
For the first time in as long as anybody can remember _ perhaps ever _ two Australians will have starring roles in the BCS championship when LSU meets Alabama on Monday night.
Wing is the brassy freshman punter for the top-ranked Tigers, the kid who grew up playing Australian Rules football and dreamed of making it big. Williams is the mammoth defensive tackle for the No. 2 Crimson Tide, the guy covered with tattoos and sporting a Mohawk whose soft voice and thoughtful demeanor manage to put people at ease.
They don't know each other, except by reputation, but they've earned quite a following back home, where the game will be aired to an audience that still views American football as a novelty.
"I don't think it'll ever happen again," Wing said, "and I'm not sure if it's ever happened before. It's sort of a once-in-a-lifetime thing. It's crazy to have two Australian kids playing in the biggest game in American sport. It's really good for Australia."
Wing's introduction to the game came through his father, David, who was a high-level Australian Rules football player and once tried out for the Detroit Lions as a punter.
The elder Wing was coaching for the Sandringham Dragons, one of the clubs in the feeder league for the AFL, the most widely followed competition in Australia. His son was just a sprightly fellow on the youth team, but his talent for delivering accurate, booming kicks had already started to emerge.
It was the rest of the game that Wing struggled to grasp, though. Soon it became evident that no matter how good of a leg he had, his ability would only take him so far.
"He realized very quickly there's not much point being a pauper, kicking around a country town for a hundred bucks a week and saying, 'I'm a professional footballer,'" said the Dragons' regional manager, Wayne Oswald, who has followed Wing's career across the Pacific.
Wing knew his father tried to make it as a punter, so he figured, "Why not try it myself?"
Some family friends in Baton Rouge, Louisiana., agreed to host him for his final year and a half of high school, but it was still difficult to move. Even now, he admits there were many nights he wondered whether he had made a mistake. It wasn't until he was punting for Parkview Baptist High School that he felt more at home, right about the time he was catching the attention of LSU coaches.
"It wasn't easy as an 18-year-old kid to pick up and leave Australia, my brother and all my friends," Wing said. "It wasn't an easy decision, an easy time in my life, to leave everything and come over here. It wasn't an easy time. But with the support I've gotten, it's been really good."
Indeed, Wing may have felt lonely during those early days in America.
He's surely not feeling that way anymore.
His parents joined him a few weeks ago, uniting the family again. And he's become part of a much larger extended family: the 90,000-plus who pack Tiger Stadium to watch LSU play.
"It's been difficult to explain to my friends the magnitude of college football, and definitely LSU football," he said. "I just have to tell them to Google 'Tiger Stadium' and they get the idea."
Wing played a big role in the Tigers' overtime victory over Alabama in November, unloading a 73-yard punt that flipped the field position in a nip-and-tuck game. But that only added to his almost mythic stature. He's achieved notoriety for a taunting penalty that cost the Tigers a touchdown, and has been known to stand up to beefy defensive linemen if they get in his face.
"He was always cheeky, but he has the right manner with his cheek. He's a bloody fun kid," Oswald said. "A very determined young man with a lot of self-belief, but no arrogance."
In that respect, he's a lot like the Crimson Tide's Australian import.
Williams played rugby and basketball growing up in Brisbane, but was coaxed into playing football by his friend, Lachlan McIntyre, who played quarterback for a club team called the Bayside Ravens.
"He was a monstrous kid for a young fella, but a bit of a shy, gentle giant-type," recalled Ravens coach Steve Box. "He hadn't played much contact sport, only really basketball, but it clicked."
Despite just 600 or so players in the Queensland state league, some coaches from the University of Hawaii caught wind of the burgeoning defensive tackle. Williams initially planned to play for them, but there was a falling out and he landed at Arizona Western, a junior college in Yuma, Arizona.
Williams was so dominant his first season there that it seemed every major college coach was at his door. He ultimately chose Alabama, though he admitted he'd rather eat Vegemite than barbecue and was still plenty na


Updated : 2021-01-24 15:21 GMT+08:00