The two of them would be there, maybe 10 o’clock in the evening, outside the West Campus Apartments where they lived, hanging out, chatting, sharing their hopes and dreams.
At some point, Brad Wing would throw to Odell Beckham Jr., then Beckham would flip the ball to Wing so he could catch it and pantomime a punting motion. Without realizing it, a bond was formed.
“We’d throw for an hour, sit and talk, throw for another hour,’’ Beckham recalled to The Post, clearly relaying a fond reminiscence. “We knew where each other wanted to be and we always kept each other straight on that and pushed each other forward.’’
They pushed each other to where they are now, together again, no longer on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge but with the Giants, reunited but very much still something of an odd couple — the star receiver and the Australian punter.
“It works out,’’ said Beckham, who said he hopes his balky hamstring allows him to play in Monday night’s game in Philadelphia. “He’s really like a good person, a guy I’ve watched grow up, how he’s changed and matured. I’m very happy for him, happy he’s on the team, happy that he’s being successful.’’
Beckham, 22, and Wing, 24, were not only college teammates, they dormed together at LSU with Jarvis Landry, who now plays for the Dolphins. Two hot-shot receivers and an Aussie punter sharing a room? Sounds like the makings of an ’80s sitcom.
“It was a little trio of us always chilling around each other,’’ Beckham said.
“It was weird — I was the Australian kid — I said I didn’t care who I was with and they just threw me in there,’’ Wing recalled. “We became real close as soon as he came in as a freshman. We ended up spending a lot of time together, both on and off the field, in and out of the facility. We’re pretty excited to be back together, and it’s like we haven’t left each other. We were good friends and continue that relationship.’’
When the Giants, on the last round of cuts in early September, released veteran Steve Weatherford, that same day sent a seventh-round draft pick to the Steelers in exchange for Wing. Beckham was one of the first to call him. When Wing arrived in town, he stayed with Beckham until he found a place to live.
“I walked in the locker room and you see a guy [Weatherford] who has been here for so long, I’m new to this and I’ve never seen anything like this, I’m just mind-blown by it all,’’ Beckham said. “I’m like, this is just crazy. [Wing] is a guy who is my best friend. We both believe God put him here for a reason and there’s a purpose for it.’’
One word out of Wing is all it takes to know he’s not a Jersey boy. He is from Melbourne, and though being an Australian is not as rare as it once was in the NFL, he’s the first one to ever suit up for the Giants.
As the replacement for the popular, effervescent and jacked-up Weatherford, Wing has provided exactly what coach Tom Coughlin wants out of his punter. The left-footer has dropped an NFL-high 13 punts down inside the 20-yard line, and, more importantly, he is sixth-best in punt return yardage, allowing just 5.9 yards per punt.
“He’s done a nice job,’’ said Coughlin, who can be hard on his punters — even the ultra-effective Jeff Feagles was not spared. “He’s given us directional punting, and he’s given us a ball to be downed inside — I like them inside the 5. We have two inside the 5.’’
It did not take long for Wing’s new teammates to notice him. Not by how he looked or what he did, but how he sounded.
“Where you from? What’s going on? You doing that on purpose?’ ” Wing said of the initial reaction to him inside the Giants’ locker room. “It’s funny but it’s all good.’’
Wing went undrafted out of LSU, signed with the Eagles but was cut after training camp and landed in Pittsburgh, where he had a decent rookie season in 2014. The fact he was an Australian was a novelty at first around the Steelers, but it eventually died down. It is fully alive with the Giants.
“Here I can tell they haven’t had much Australian experience because the accents are terrible from the guys in the locker room — their attempts at Australian accents,’’ Wing said. “Damontre Moore … he’s got a terrible Australian accent, but I keep telling him he’s getting better, just for my own entertainment. He thinks he’s pretty good at it, but he’s like a young Steve Irwin mixed with a British Steve Irwin. He doesn’t have it quite down yet.
“Odell’s got a good one, too. … He’s had some practice so he doesn’t count.’’
Beckham laughed at that.
“I make fun of him all the time,’’ he said. “I have to hear something he says and then I’ll repeat it to him, clown him, because sometimes that little accent will come out on him. Little words, like after you say something he’s like ‘owie?’ for ‘are we?’ It’s like backwards English almost, when he’s like, ‘Mate … yeah, mate.’ ”
Wing played Australian Rules Football as a kid, where the ball is fatter, more like rugby, and in 2008 decided he wanted to try kicking an American football. His father, David Wing, was on the Lions preseason roster in the early 1990s then punted for the Scottish Claymores in the old NFL Europe league.
“He got those [American footballs] out for me, and we started from scratch and worked our way up,’’ Wing said.
Wing is also the holder on field goals, and it has been a smooth transition. Josh Brown is 13-for-13 on his kicks and said he was impressed right away with his younger Aussie specialist sidekick.
“I actually thought he was a very cool kid, very smart,’’ Brown said, “You hear his accent and everybody attaches to that. They all want to have his accent when they first talk to him. It becomes a lot of fun. He is an intelligent, smart, mature 24-year old kid.’’
Brown, who is follicly challenged, does admit, “I’m very envious of his hair.’’ Wing’s is so long he rolls it into a small bun sitting on top of his head. His buddy Beckham, with his yellow-dyed tousled mop, takes a back seat to no one in the hair department.
“It’s not a bad look on him,’’ Beckham said of Wing. “He’s Australian, he’s a different breed, you know what I mean?’’
“That’s like my boy, like a brother to me,’’ Beckham said. “Everybody has their own type of problems, and to see where he’s come from and to see where he’s at now, we talk about it all the time, just the fact that 16 years old, he was in Australia, whole different culture, whole different everything, and to come here and to be in New York City, playing for the Giants, playing in the NFL, it’s not what he grew up really doing. I think his story’s great. He’s obviously a great punter and we kind of just have that same mentality of being overly obsessed with being perfect.
“We have a lot of similarities.’’
Paul Schwartz | nypost.com | October 17, 2015
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