NORMAN — Sooner punter Tress Way loves to crush a football into a tiny brown speck against a powder blue sky. His strong leg has become a defensive weapon for Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. He landed 34 of his 63 punts inside the 20-yard line in 2011.
As a former two-sport athlete at Tulsa Union High School, Way is athletic enough to run fakes for the Sooners, and should Stoops ask it of him, he would.
Q: What do you think about the stigma attached to football's specialists?
A: I think the stereotype, which, to be honest, we don't do near as much as the other guys do in practice, but it's kind of fun to raise the bar. We're actually able to compete with some of the position players — defensive backs, linebackers — in our drills, in our conditioning and that sort of thing. And the coaches love it too. If we're able to beat one of the position players in a drill, then they're just like “Ah, you're letting the kickers beat you.” So it's fun being able to have the athleticism to work and to run with the guys that are putting in the work.
Q: Do you think specialists need to become more athletic as the game evolves?
A: We only do so much. You look around, and a lot of guys around the nation now can do it, and because it is tough to do, guys are more athletic. But there's not necessarily a need. All a guy has to be able to do is catch the ball and kick the ball. As much as I hate to admit it, you don't have to be that athletic — but it is fun being athletic and being able to do it.
Q: What do you think about punters who rugby kick the ball?
A: More power to them. I've tried messing around with that, and that's really hard. I don't know how guys do that. I mess around out on the game field just trying to see if I can do it every once in awhile, and that takes some serious focus, concentration — whatever they got. More power to them, but I just like lining up back there and kicking it as far as I can.
Q: LSU punter Brad Wing made a splash last season with his ability as a punter and athlete when running fake punts. How do you feel about being asked to run fakes?
A: Oh, I would love to run a fake so much. Whenever our punt return team is working in practice, and I run fakes for the scout team, oh I just live it up back there — just living the dream, throwing deep balls, cutting up the field. And because I'm a punter, anytime I get a 10- or 15-yard gain, everybody just freaks out. So, I'm jealous of him. He's got to live the dream.