Gleeson Overcomes Jitters

Will Gleeson, Ole Miss' new punter who made his first start against Boise last Thursday, admits to nervousness, but he didn't let that prevent him from an outstanding outing.

Ole Miss Punter Will Gleeson had a marvelous debut, averaging 47.2 yards per punt against Boise State Thursday night in the Rebs' 350-13 season-opening win.

His effort was not lost on Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze.

"It was one game, so there's still a long way to go, but I have to say I am really, really pleased with the way Will punted," said Freeze. "I thought his sky kicks were good and I thought his rugby kicks were what we needed.

"In short, he was a weapon for us."

A weapon. What every punter wants to hear, music to their ears.

Will didn't feel like a weapon early on because his stomach was churning.

"I can't lie. I was very nervous," Gleeson commented in his Australian brogue. "It was a moment I will never forget. I have been kicking my sporting life in Australian Rules Football, but I felt more nervous with Coach (Tom) Allen and Coach (Hugh) Freeze standing near me the whole time.

"(Deep Snapper) Will Denny helped me settle in. He said all I was doing is going out there and kicking a ball, which I have done a million times."

It only took one kick for Will to shake the butterflies.

"I had a good sky kick and that made me comfortable the rest of the way," he noted. "Averaging 47 yards a kick, I exceeded my expectations."

Gleeson was reared on Australian Rules football, which is totally different than American football.

"The field can be 200 yards long and as much as 180 yards wide - field size varies, but all of them are bigger than an American football field," he noted. "To be honest, when I first started playing American football two years ago, it was a bit claustrophobic.

"I had to get used to kicking in tighter spaces and being more accurate with my kicks."

The adjustment didn't take long, however, because placement of kicks is a huge part of success in Australian Rules football.

It showed in spring training and in August practice, where Will won the job over freshman Gary Wunderlich.

Why did he beat out the talented newcomer, who has a stronger leg, overall, than Will?

"I think my versatility of being able to rugby kick and sky kicks and being able to kick with either foot and being able to place the ball where the coaches tell me to made the difference," Gleeson assessed. "Coverage is easier when you can kick away from return men or kick in the corners or to one side or the other."

Being ambidextrous with his feet is something the Rebels will utilize in the future.

"I am predominantly left-footed, but I can kick effectively right-footed because if you can't do both in Australian football, you won't play," he stated. "If the rush is lined up to the left, I can rugby kick to right easily."

Another bullet in Gleeson's chamber.

Gleeson had a crucial punt at a crucial time in the game. The Rebs were penned down inside their 20 and Boise looked to be in good shape for superb field position in a still-tight contest.

Gleeson booted a punt to the left side of the field and it traveled 70 yards, flipping the field.

"It really felt good coming off my foot," he stated. "I felt it was a good one when it left my foot."

Will is looking forward to moving forward and more games.

"I like the crowds. I like the intensity," he added. "Now that I have gotten adjusted to everything, I'm loving it."

There's one more things Gleeson had to adjust to - the size of the ball.

"The American ball is smaller and pointier," he explained. "When it comes off your foot good, it's good, but it's less forgiving on an off-center kick.

"The margin of error is smaller. It's worse than an Australian ball when you hit it poorly."

Gleeson had to overcome a different size field, a smaller ball, learning a new game, great competition and first-game nerves.

So far, he's done all five.

"I've got to keep pushing. I'm looking forward to it. I anticipate being more and more comfortable as the games tick off," he closed.

While Freeze was quick to point out that "it was just one game," it's critical that game was a success.

Will Gleeson was more than a success, he was a weapon.


OM Spirit Top Stories