CORAL GABLES —It took only a few hours on signing day for Louis Hedley to become one of the most talked about recruits in the country.
At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, he looks more like a tight end than a punter. Or a rock star, considering the Aussie is covered in more tattoos than he can count. Oh, and he’s a former Australian rules football player who used to work at an aluminum refinery before playing junior college football in California and joining Miami.
The Tampa Bay Times caught up with Hedley this week at the Hurricanes’ media day for a conversation that, naturally, wasn’t much about football at all. Our Q&A has been lightly edited for space and clarity.
What do you think about your cult celebrity status as just an awesome-looking Aussie punter?
I got a lot of attention through my tattoos, but it’s still pretty surreal, to be honest, when people come up to me and recognize me, I’m just walking around the shops and whatnot. It’s pretty crazy coming from scaffolding in Australia to coming over here, sort of having a name through Miami. It’s good, but at the same time, I need to prove myself. I haven’t even played a snap. I’m just excited to get there and get the season started.
What was it like scaffolding down there? It must have been ungodly hot.
It was hard work. We had to wear overalls and boots and hard hats. I worked at an aluminum refinery. All the lads there, we were all like brothers. It’s a close clique. I did that for about six to seven years. It’s a nice change coming over and just putting the tools down.
How does that summer compare to the summer here?
It’s pretty similar. We get about three months of hot weather (in Australia), about two months of really hot weather, then the other seasons are pretty traditional. Where I’m from, it’s hot but pretty dry. You don’t get this humidity. But I love it here. It’s great weather to kick in —humid and hot and not much wind. It’s perfect for punting.
How many tattoos do you have?
I’m not sure, to be honest. It’s pretty much one tattoo, just merged.
What was your first?
I got Hedley under my bicep.
Why, and how old were you?
I was about 15. I think I was traveling in Hong Kong, visiting my auntie there. She works as an English teacher, and me and Mom went on a holiday. I sort of just snuck off and got a tattoo in a little alleyway.
I’m sorry. At 15 years old, you sneaked off into an alley in Hong Kong to get a tattoo? Did I hear that correctly?
Yeah, yeah. Mom, she didn’t really mind. They’re pretty cool. My older brother has a lot of tattoos. I grew up trying to be like him. As the younger brother, I just wanted to be like my older brother. He had tattoos. I wanted to be like him.
When was the first time you heard about the University of Miami?
Probably when I first started looking into college football. Three years ago when I decided to embark on this journey, I knew nothing about college football. Didn’t know what the Power Five was, didn’t know what conferences were what. Then I started looking at good teams. I saw Miami. When I was in juco, they told me Miami might be interested. I was super excited. As soon as they offered, I took it and never looked back.
When was the first time you heard about American football?
I’ve always known about American football. We see highlights of the Super Bowl and whatnot. I never really watched a game. The first game I watched was the junior college game I was a part of. I got there about three days before the first game, which was super rush. I didn’t really have the great season through juco stat wise. It was really windy and rainy, and I was still learning the ropes. But I’m so much better now and so excited for the season to show people what I can do.
What do you think the first game is going to be like at this level?
It’s going to be great. Running onto that field is going to be so surreal. Going from playing country football back home with maybe a couple hundred people watching to a stadium filled with 60,000 and maybe a million people watching on TV. It’s next-level, but I’m super excited for the challenge.