Two punters were selected in the fifth round of last month’s draft. Brad Wing was not one of them.
The LSU product, who eventually signed on with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent, sat at home in Baton Rouge, La. with his parents, little brother and fiancee without receiving a call.
On talent alone, there’s little question about whether Wing (6-2, 205) warrants a spot in the league. But in an uncommon twist, the punter’s off-the-field transgressions are what scared teams away. According to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Wing was told by LSU that he was no longer welcome on the team, even though he had two years of eligibility remaining.
Asked how often teams questioned him about being a distraction, Wing answered honestly, “It was a lot. That was pretty much what it was all about.”
Wing was arrested for simple battery after getting into a fight, although charges were eventually dropped. From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
In an application for a temporary restraining order filed against Wing by Chabert on July 7, Chabert said Wing entered a room where he was laying in bed and locked the door behind him. He then began questioning Chabert about his contact with an ex-girlfriend of Wing’s.
Wing then swatted a cell phone out of Chabert’s hands, threw him to the floor and began punching and kicking him, Chabert said in the application. The victim escaped and left the room before calling the police.
There’s more, too. Wing was suspended for the Tigers’ bowl game last year for reportedly failing a drug test.
“I had let people down in the past, and there’s nothing I can do about that,” Wing said. “I can just try and move forward, and I know that going into relationships now, people won’t trust me and that I will have to build trust. I know that, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes, because this is where I want to be for the next 25 years of my life. I’m willing to jump through any hoops that they want me to do. I’m just so fortunate that the Eagles here have given me a chance.”
Of course, not all teams felt Wing deserved a second chance.
“He’s a problem child,” one special-teams coach told McGinn. “I interviewed him at the combine. I think it was all con. I don’t think this guy is remorseful for any of it.
“If it was me, only way I would take him is if we didn’t have anything invested in him. First time he (expletive) up he’d be out the door. There’s too many red flags on this guy.”
The truth is, the Eagles are risking very little on Wing as an undrafted free agent. He’ll come in and have a chance to compete with Donnie Jones. If he doesn’t perform or has issues off the field, he’ll be let go.
But if he keeps his head on straight, he has upside. Wing was an All-American as a freshman, averaging 44.4 yards per punt. Only 20 of his 59 attempts were returned, and opponents totaled just 73 yards of return yardage against him all season.
The Eagles’ special teams were terrible last year, and the punt/punt return unit was especially bad, ranking dead-last in the league, according to Football Outsiders.
Wing has a connection with another former Australian punter who played in Philadelphia, calling Sav Rocca his “hero.”
“When I was growing up and he was playing Australian Rules Football for the Kangaroos, he was my favorite player,” Wing said. “I wore his jersey around, and so, once he left the AFL, I was sort of upset. I followed him closely once he was in the NFL. That’s what sort of drew me to the NFL a whole lot.”
Rocca joined the Redskins in 2011 and has carved out a six-year NFL career. If he can stay out of trouble, Wing has a chance to do the same.
Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at email@example.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.