Michigan receiver Drew Dileo has close connections to national title game, including LSU's quirky Aussie
Wing became an All-American this year as a redshirt freshman punter for LSU and will start in the national championship game today against Alabama in New Orleans (8:30 p.m., ESPN). He's achieved stardom for his 60-yard blasts, 5-second hang times and quirky personality.
When Dileo first met Wing in summer 2009, though, Wing had just enrolled as a foreign exchange student at Parkview Baptist High School in Baton Rouge, La.
"The first time we saw him, he was wearing these really, really tight jeans and we weren’t too sure about him," Dileo said in a recent interview. "He had a couple earrings in and everything. And then all of the sudden, he punts, and we shut up real fast.
"I’m literally running pass routes and he is kicking to me on the run in stride. And we’re like, ‘Wow, this kid is special.’"
Dileo grew up in Greenwell Springs, La. and just 15 miles from LSU, which is 13-0 and vying for a national title. The Michigan sophomore has several connections to players who are on that team, including running back Kenny Hilliard, linebacker D.J. Welter, snapper Austin Kinchen and receiver Hunter Kinchen.
But it's Wing he remembers best.
Wing, 20, decided to finish his schooling in the United States after he was cut by his hometown Sandringham Dragons, an Australian rules football club near Melbourne.
He arrived in Baton Rouge in July. By November, he had a scholarship offer to play at LSU.
As a redshirt freshman this year, Wing averaged 44.1 yards per punt, stuck 11 inside the 10-yard line and had 18 that traveled at least 50 yards. He was named a consensus first-team All-American.
"It's almost like you walk into a garage sale and see a Picasso sitting in the corner, and nobody else really knows what it is," LSU special teams coach Thomas McGaughey told the Wall Street Journal. "So you sprint over there and grab it. That's what I did with Brad."
Wing and Dileo helped lead Parkview Baptist to a Louisiana state final as seniors in 2009. The game was held in New Orleans at the Superdome, also the site of the Sugar Bowl, where Dileo's Michigan team beat Virginia Tech last week, and tonight's national championship.
They lost the game, but remain close.
"He’s a character," Dileo said. "He’s a funny guy. I talk to him once every couple weeks."
Wing has another local connection besides Dileo. His father, David, punted one season for the Detroit Lions in 1990.