Pro Kats Series: Punter Lachlan Edwards, Kicking It With the Pros

From Australia, to American FCS football, to the NFL, former Bearkat and current New York Jets punter Lachlan Edwards has experienced it all.

Edwards’ story is quite peculiar though. The 6-foot-5 Aussie from Hasting, Victoria, Australia, did not touch an American football until 2012. He was kicking a ball around at a local park with some friends, when little did he know his life would change forever.

“One of my professors from Ballarat University – the university I attended at the time – drove by and saw me punt,” Edwards said. “He stopped, parked his car and asked if I played. He put me in touch with a kicking coach in Australia, and it just took off from there.”

One punt altered the course of Edwards’ life. He would then travel across the Pacific and attend Sam Houston State for three years and graduate as an All-Southland and as an All-America third team punter. Edwards finished the 2015 season with a total of 74 punts, with a gross average of 41.5 yards per punt.

The strong play of Edwards on the field caught eyes of many NFL scouts. He received an invitation to play in the NFLPA Bowl game, he showcased his talent at the NFL Scouting Combine and he hosted a Pro Day at Bowers Stadium to further show professional teams that he has the skills to play on the next level.

When the 2016 NFL Draft rolled around and Edwards found himself a new home, in the state of New York with the New York Jets.

Edwards received a call from the Jets organization in the seventh round and they told him that they were going to select him with the 235 overall pick.

“I was actually watching the NFL Draft at Humphrey’s with a couple of buddies when I got the call,” Edwards said. “I was not expecting to get drafted, but I did know that the Jets were interested because they kept in contact with me on a weekly basis.”

The former Bearkat, and now Jet, walked into a good situation. Ryan Quigley, the Jets’ previous punter, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency, leaving the starting position vacant. All signs pointed to Edwards being the main guy, until the Jets made things interesting by signing fellow Aussie Tom Hackett, an undrafted rookie punter from the University of Utah.

“Me and Tom are pretty good friends and we both knew that one of us was going to get cut from the team eventually,” Edwards said. “We were going to settle it on the field, but we did not expect it to come so soon.”

The short-lived position battle ended on just the first day of training camp. All offseason, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets organization were in contract talks and they finally worked out a deal. Hackett was cut to make room for the superstar quarterback.

“The NFL is a cutthroat business and the cut happened right in front of us,” Edwards said. “It is definitely not a fun thing to witness because a guy just lost his job, but the Jets showed that they had a lot of trust in me by doing that. I’m just happy to still be here.”

Going into the preseason Edwards was the number one guy. He was getting all the reps at practice, special teams coaches started game planning with him in the lineup. As well he started building mentor-like relationships with veteran players, like kicker Nick Folk, who has been in the league for 10 years.

“Since there was no veteran punter when I came in, it was sort of a blind leading a blind, so I did not really know what I should be doing at specific times on the schedule,” Edwards said. “I started following Folk around and tried to take in everything I could. He has taught me things such as, body maintenance and how I should be spending my time. I see him as kind of like my mentor.”

Edwards made his NFL preseason debut on Aug. 11 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Aussie punted the ball six times, having a gross average of 42.2 yards per punt. His longest punt went for 50 yards and he pinned the Jaguars inside their own 20-yard line twice.

“The feeling of strapping on my helmet and walking out onto the field of MetLife Stadium was great,” Edwards said. “I was trying not to look around a whole lot when I first got out there, but on the defensive drives I would peep around a bit. When it was my time to go, I made sure that I was focusing on what I needed to do.”

After the first couple of preseason games, Edwards started feeling comfortable with the professional game.

“It is weird because I almost feel more pressure at practice than I do during the actual games,” Edwards said. “I pretty much have gotten rid of the rookie butterflies though, so that is good.”

Fans of the award-winning HBO sports documentary series “Hard Knocks” are familiar with what rookies have to go through during preseason. They have to fight for their job, adjust to life in a new city, and most of the time, they have to embarrass themselves in front of the whole organization.

Edwards found himself singing at a team meeting in front of his teammates and coaches.

“At any given time a rookie could be told to go up and sing in front of the team, so I went up and sang one day,” Edwards said. “You kind of have to just go up there and get it over with cause if you just refused, you would get criticized. I just decided to get up there and get it out of the way.”

Besides singing and making a fool of himself, Edwards really enjoys the Jets’ special teams coaches. He feels like he can learn a lot from special teams coordinator Brant Boyer and assistant special teams coach Jeff Hammerschmidt.

“The special teams coaches do a great job,” Edwards said. “Boyer and Hammer are down to earth and they are just good people. In the end, it is not all business with them. We have a little bit of fun in the meeting room, talking about all sorts of stuff. I have enjoyed that.”

The life-changing feeling that some players get when joining the NFL is not something that Edwards has felt yet.

“My life has not really changed a whole lot since getting drafted and signing the contract,” Edwards said. “It is not like I am out buying 100 dollar steaks and stuff. I’m still living like I was in college. It is just a little easier now I guess.”

The Jets’ preseason came to an end on Sept. 1. The real deal is about to start, the regular season. Edwards plans on taking his first season week by week.

“I just plan on going with the flow and keeping my head on my shoulders,” Edwards said. “I am going to go out everyday and continue to do what I do. However, I would like to finish in the top-half of the NFL in punting, just for job security. Other than that, I have not set any personal goals.”

Edwards’ former team, the SHSU Bearkats notched their first win of the season on Sept. 3 in a 59-21 victory over the Oklahoma Panhandle State Aggies. Although he does not play for the Kats anymore, Edwards will continue to follow them and keep track of their season.

“I will definitely be keeping up with them on ESPN3 as much as I can,” Edwards said. “I know how much potential they have. They have been on the cuff of a National Championship birth for five years now. Hopefully this year they can take it all the way and show people that Sam Houston is actually the powerhouse we think we are.”

Edwards made his regular season debut on Sunday in a 23-22 loss against the Cincinnati Bengals. He punted the ball three times for an average of 51.3 yards per punt.

The New York Jets will look to turn things around as they hit the field tomorrow against the Buffalo Bills (0-1). The game will be broadcasted on the NFL Network and kickoff is set for 7:25 p.m.

As for Edwards, he will look to continue his early success.

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