A Different World

The Ole Miss offense hasn’t so far been what head coach Hugh Freeze wants to see from it this August camp. Enter Will Gleeson.

When an offense isn’t producing and hasn’t reached field goal range yet, the punter can be its best weapon. And with the defense the Rebels appear to have set for 2014, a punter can really set the table for that side of the ball to hold down an opposing offense.

The Rebels’ offense will improve. There are weapons. But Gleeson is competing to step in and step into punts to help his team out when things don’t stay on the move on “O.”

“It’s been challenging. It’s been fun,” Gleeson said of his time at Ole Miss so far, which counts a redshirt school year in 2013-14 after his arrival a year ago. “I’ve struggled a little bit with consistency. I’m just trying to get the right kicks.”

Gleeson, from Melbourne, Australia, has been playing American football only a short time. That was certainly the case when he got to Ole Miss.

“It’s coming up on two years ago now,” he said of being involved in the American game. “So it’s still relatively new for me.”

But he knew he wanted to give it a shot, and he followed in the footsteps of a sibling.

“I was playing Australian football, which I guess is a variation of rugby. My brother (Tim) started punting. He went to Wyoming and he’s now at Rutgers. That kind of convinced me.”

Ole Miss punter Will Gleeson.

Gleeson hopes the schedules work out so that he can watch Tim punt. Then there is always the possibility of a bowl matchup between the Rebels and the Scarlet Knights.

“Now that he is at Rutgers in the Big Ten, I’m hoping I might be able to catch one of his games,” Gleeson said.

Gleeson said he had to rethink “football” in the process of changing from one country’s brand of football to another.

“I basically had to forget all my instilled knowledge of kicking Australian on the ground, like low and hard, and basically kick it high and as long as possible with a different ball as well. And also hang time,” he said.

So how did he wind up at Ole Miss for college?

Gleeson was in this area of the world when his own world changed. Just a few hours down the road in Louisiana, Gleeson’s opportunity to become a part of the Southeastern Conference came about.

“I was in a program for Pro Kick Australia,” he said. “My brother had been in it. I was traveling the states in 2012. I was in New Orleans. My coach called me up and said ‘I’ve got you a visit up in Oxford, Mississippi.’ So I caught the train the next day, loved it, and got offered from there.”

He’d wanted the type opportunity which came his way, so he jumped at it.

“I was originally trying to play professional Australian football,” said the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Gleeson, who played youth league Australian football, basketball and track, and was team captain in football as well as a state champion in the high jump and long jump in track.

“When that didn’t work out, I was looking at options. I wanted to get a degree. I thought America would be a great opportunity to come over and play some sport and study at the same time.”

He arrived a year ago this month. He knew he wouldn’t punt in games until this year. Veteran Tyler Campbell had redshirted the season before and had a year remaining.

Gleeson said he learned from Campbell, which was the plan all along.

“They told me I was going to redshirt and that I was going to learn from Tyler,” he said. “He did a great job of showing me what to do and to just relax. You’ve done it before. If you hit a bad ball, just go out and bomb the next one.

“I’ve really become more comfortable punting. It was really daunting at first. But I’m getting my game together, and I should be ready to go.”

Right now Gleeson and freshman Gary Wunderlich appear to be in a battle for the Rebels’ punting job. Gleeson said Wunderlich is good.

“Gary’s been hitting some really good balls. He’s really talented. I’m just trying to work on my consistency and different variations of punting.”

The American game is quite a change from the Australian game, according to the son of Steve and Sally Gleeson, who will turn 21 on Aug. 17.

“The speed, the tempo, the physicality,” he said. “It’s a completely different sport. The closest aspect would be just actually punting the ball.”

Not only are the games different, so is living in Oxford as opposed to Melbourne. Gleeson likes both.

“It’s a completely different world, but I’ve loved it,” he said of Oxford and Ole Miss. “It was a hard transition. Everyone, coaches, teammates, they’ve all made it easier for me. I wouldn’t want to leave now.

“The accent was a little tough at first. And just the general lifestyle. I’m from a big city, and coming to a small town was tough. But once again I love it. I wouldn’t change it.”

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