McGehee's Dream Finally Comes True
A dream delayed is now becoming a dream realized for Austin McGehee, the former Pine Bluff standout kicker and punter.
McGehee (6-1, 215) chose to sign with Purdue in 2014 instead of taking the opportunity to be a preferred walk on at Arkansas, and eventually ended up spending the summer with the Boilermakers and then the fall at Arkansas State.
He will arrive in Fayetteville on Friday - becoming one of nine Arkansas early scholarship and walk on mid-term enrollees and getting a chance to finally realize his dream of putting on a Razorback jersey.
“I look back at all that has happened and think that it has come full circle and this is what I should have done in the first place,” McGehee said. “I mean being a Razorback has always been my dream, but I didn’t want my parents to have to pay for me to go to school and I thought it would work out at Purdue.”
Instead McGehee - who would have been Purdue’s punter as a freshman - left West Lafayette, Ind., to come home due to some family issues and also because he readily admits he was home sick.
McGehee, who kicked for Star City in his freshman and sophomore years and then transferred to PIne Bluff and was first-team All-Arkansas as a junior and senior, wanted to come straight to Arkansas, but it didn’t seem like the best idea.
The Razorbacks had just signed USA Today first-team All-American kicker Cole Hedlund in the 2014 class and had just gotten a commitment from Los Alamitos, Calif., Blake Johnson - regarded as the nation’s best punter in the 2015 class.
He sent his paper work to both Arkansas and Arkansas State.
“By that time I made the decision to leave Purdue, Blake Johnson had just committed to Arkansas and so they looked set at both kicker and punter for a long time,” McGehee said. “Arkansas State offered me the opportunity to come there and it seemed like a good deal.
“Arkansas State’s coaches thought I might be able to get eligible for last season, but at worst I would be in line to do all three things - kickoff, field goals and punt - the next season (2015) for them,” McGehee added.
“But the more I thought about it and talked it over with my family, I just made the decision that I wanted to be at Arkansas and I would regret it if I didn’t just go ahead and take the opportunity,” McGehee continued. “I’ve grown up and I am ready to face the challenge.”
So McGehee - at the invitation of Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema and chief in-state recruiter Barry Lunney, Jr., - will now be a Razorback and hopes to get a chance to battle for at least the punting and kickoff jobs be it in 2015 or 2016.
“The way I look at it is it’s me against the world,” McGehee said. “Arkansas has the best kicker in the nation and now is adding the best punter in the nation.
“But that doesn’t scare me and I am a lot more mature because of this past year,” McGehee added. “I would really like to be eligible this season and take them on, but if I don’t get a waiver then I will just go over and be the best scout team punter that there has ever been and help my team win by giving them a great look by doing that.”
McGehee went 10-of-13 on field goals as a senior, 50-of-51 on PATs, kicked 56 touchbacks and averaged 42.2 yards per punt on 25 punts with five being downed inside the 20 for the Zebras.
That included a 42-yard field goal as time expired that lifted Pine Bluff to a 37-34 over Greenwood in the Class 6A state semifinals and ended the Bulldogs’ 50-game win streak.
He did so right after being encouraged by Pine Bluff teammate Will Gragg, who is another one of the nine Arkansas early enrollees.
“Will walked over to me and said ‘we’ve got your back whether you make it or not,’” McGehee remembered. “I just told him ‘don’t worry, I got this.’ He just slapped me on the helmet and said ‘well, I guess we’re good here then.’
“I thought they were going to ice me because they had three timeouts, but they didn’t,” McGehee said. “So I just stepped up and got it done. I was so focused on the kick that I was in a zone and just making sure I got it high enough, but then I noticed everybody running around and going crazy and decided I better do that, too.”
McGehee was offered the preferred walk on spot by Arkansas the summer before his senior season when the Razorbacks were not sure Sam Irwin Hill was for sure going to make it to campus.
Since that time, McGehee -whose nickname is Shaggy - has thrown himself into punting more than ever before.
“I was telling Coach Lunney the other day that if I knew back then what I knew now, I would definitely have put more time into punting,” McGehee said. “I would have punted 50 balls a day instead of just 10 and working so much on my field goals.
“I can tell you that I am bigger and stronger and I am absolutely just booming the ball better than I ever had been and that is what I am coming up there to do,” McGehee added. “I will be ready if my time comes.”
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