Specialists Are Fearless in Pressure Situations
The ability to handle a high-pressure situation identifies great players. Placekicker Drew Alleman and punter Brad Wing know all too well what it's like to be in the spotlight, but having all eyes on them only motivates them to succeed for their team.
"When I'm running out onto the field, I just want to make the kick for this team and help this team get to where we want to be at the end of the season," Alleman said.
"We know that every single game we're in is going to be a pressure situation," Wing said. "We get used to it and we prepare for that. I think I perform better under pressure, and we both look forward to those situations."
That call to rise came for the duo during the Game of the Century, as it was called, against Alabama last season. In the highly-anticipated nail-biter, it was a war of field goals. Alleman rose to the occasion, earning all nine points scored by LSU in the 9-6 field goal battle. While he was glad to score the points, he does not take credit for LSU's victory.
"It gives credit to our offense for getting us in the position to kick short field goals and to be able to come out with a victory," Alleman said. "It's not just what Brad and I did during that game, it's what the team did as a whole. The offense and defense played a great game, and so did all of special teams. It wasn't the kicks I had in it, it was the game. It felt great to go out there and do what we did as a specialist group."
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Talent knows no age, and that is testament to the portfolio assembled by Wing during his redshirt freshman season, including First-Team All-American, Freshman All-American and First-Team All-SEC honors. That's on top of being a semifinalist for the prestigious Ray Guy Award, awarded to the best punter in college football.
This success did not come easily, as the Melbourne, Australia native says. College football is not well-known in Australia, and with only one season as a high school player under his belt, he gives much of the credit to Alleman for his knowledge of the game.
"Drew's definitely helped me," Wing said. "We've had a good relationship ever since I got here, when I was a true freshman and I redshirted. We've always clicked, and we're always in the same position. When I wasn't playing, he wasn't playing. We were both the backups, so we bonded and formed a relationship pretty quickly, as soon as I got to LSU."
"Brad came in not knowing anything," Alleman said. "He didn't know a lot about America. He didn't know how college worked. It was all new to him. We bonded together, and now we hang out with each other's families a lot."
Wing began his Tiger career with his family still over international waters. His family now lives in Baton Rouge, and he is grateful for the support they've given him.
"Just to know that my family is 10 minutes away helps from a support standpoint," Wing said. "It just helped me knowing they were there, and I could go see them whenever I wanted to, as opposed to a phone call. I think it really helped me mentally more than anything just to know that they're here."
Lafayette, La., native Alleman also has the privilege of having his family and support system in close range.
"My parents come to every home game and every away game," Alleman said. "They fly, they drive. They're very supportive of LSU football and everything I've done."
The support from their families and from their teammates is evident when they take the field, as the specialists do not succumb to the pressures of playing in front of thousands upon thousands of fans.
The 2011 SI.com Honorable Mention All-American and Second Team All-SEC kicker has no intentions of slowing their progress or achievements. In Alleman's senior campaign, he holds the record as the most accurate kicker in LSU history.
"There are great things to come," Alleman said. "I believe we just started showing who we are. I think as the season goes on, we'll get even better."
"We've had a pretty good tradition of special teams here," Wing said. "We always stress special teams at practice. From a team standpoint, we're trying to get the top of the list in everything, like limiting the opponent punt return yards. We're just trying to be the best at everything."
Attempting to be the best adds even more pressure on the shoulders of these players, but LSU special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey teaches them the value of pressure itself. The two players live by his advice, "Keep pressure in your back pocket; it's your friend. It can be your friend or your enemy, but make it your friend."
As the spotlight is once again placed on them, their dedication to their team is evident in the way they take the field and never fail to serve the Tigers. Their ultimate goals for the season are not for themselves, but for their Purple and Gold as a whole.
"It still stings thinking about January," Alleman said, referring to the BCS National Championship loss to Alabama. "We want to go back and prove to the world we are the team to beat this year. We want to get that national championship, and we know we can do it."