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Introducing Tom Sheldon, UNC’s new Australian punter

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At 27 years young, Tom Sheldon is taking UNC Fall Camp by storm.

UNC's Tom Sheldon playing Australian Rules Football
Tom Sheldon back in his Aussie playing days.
Shepparton News

G’day, Tar Heel Fans!

When UNC opened Fall Camp on Friday, there was a new face on the practice field: 27-year-old Australian punter Tom Sheldon.

A former Aussie Rules Football player, Sheldon only very recently arrived in the United States; therefore, information about him is tough to come by. Fortunately, I was able to find one short writeup on Sheldon. Here it is:

A bio of UNC’s Australian Punter, Tom Sheldon
Strong legged Aussies are the best Aussies

Okay, we need to break this bio down in more detail, because there’s a lot to like here:

  1. “No Photo Available”: That is textbook punter stuff right there, totally flying under the radar. I actually think there should be an NCAA rule requiring all punters to be anonymous. At most schools, special teamers are virtually indistinguishable from the average student; how exciting would it be to walk around campus not knowing if the star punter was right next to you?
  2. “Kicking Foot: Left”: Who doesn’t love a good left-footed punter? I know I sure do. Word on the street is that he may be amphibious, too; good luck blocking a punt when you don’t know which foot it’s coming off of.
  3. “Very strong legged Aussie”: Even as far as strong legged Aussies are concerned, Tom is at the top of the class. I’m assuming Australia has some pretty strong legged dudes, so this is a real testament to his ability. It wouldn’t shock me to see him kick a few Out the Back of the end zone early in the year while he learns to harness his power.
  4. “He did a great job handling the wind”: The Georgia Dome has a notoriously stiff breeze in early September, and Tom here just happens to be an expert at kicking in windy conditions. Advantage: UNC.

Now, as excited as that write up got me, it’s his background in Aussie Rules Football that has me really fired up. One of the best college punters in recent memory was LSU’s Brad Wing, another former Aussie Rules Footballer, now with the New York Giants. Wing once famously received a taunting penalty while scampering into the end zone on a fake punt, and was arguably the MVP of LSU’s 9-6 victory over Alabama in 2011. In other words, as long as Tom Sheldon is on the field, I like UNC’s chances against Bama.

Tom Sheldon is Brad Wing 2.0
Brad Wing is the GOAT

Right about now, you’re probably wondering why Aussie Rules Footballers make such great punters. Well, while doing my research on Wikipedia, I discovered that one of the most common kicks in Aussie Rules Football is a little something called the “torpedo punt.” If I had to rank the words I’d like to have associated with my punts, “torpedo” would be right at the top of that list.

Finally, how awesome is it that he’s 27, and technically a freshman? He’s like the Australian Chris Weinke of punters — and I don’t throw praise like that around lightly. He’s going to be an absolute legend on campus. I’m not super familiar with the NCAA rules regarding drinking on the sidelines, but I’ll be highly disappointed if we don’t get at least one shot of Tom celebrating his latest coffin corner punt with an ice-cold Foster’s.

It’s official: I’m all in on Tom Sheldon. I know he’s still very much in a competition with incumbent starter Joey Mangili, and I know that UNC’s explosive offense (led by #elite quarterback Mitch Trubisky) may not leave a whole lot of opportunities for the punters, but I don’t care. I’m all in. I may even root for a few 3-and-outs so I can watch that Torpedo soar.

I have a feeling this story is just getting started. So, stay tuned to Tar Heel Blog throughout camp for more coverage of Tom Sheldon, and follow me on Twitter (@rtudor9) for the official launch of the #TomSheldonForHeisman campaign.