When Oklahoma State’s 2019 class arrives on campus, it will the first time most of them have ever lived away from home.
That won’t be the case for Australian punter Tom Hutton.
“I’m not fresh out of home,” said Hutton. “I’ve lived in my own house for five years so it’s not going to be that big of a jump to leave the parents.”
Hutton, who will turn 29 in a few weeks, will head to Stillwater this January to participate in spring ball and compete for OSU’s starting punter position. With both red shirt seniors Zac Sinor and Matt Hockett now out of eligibility, and no other scholarship punters on the roster, Hutton will have a great chance to lock down the position.
“I’m sure there will be competition as well but, regardless I’ve just got to push myself to be the best punter that I can be,” said Hockett. “If that means that I’m the best that we’ve got then great, and if not, then I’ve got to even harder.”
That’s not just Hutton’s belief, it’s also what was instilled in him by the Prokick program where he learned punting.
“They make it clear that you’re not going to just get over there and cruise your way into a starting spot,” said Hutton. “It’s always about, you have a great game and then you’ve got to make your next game better than that, and continue on from there.”
Hockett is the latest in a growing line of former Aussie Rules Football and rugby players becoming punters in the U.S. after going through the ProKick Australia program. The organization is run by John Smith and Nathan Chapman, and produced former Texas — and current Seattle Seahawks — punter Michael Dickson. It also produced five of the last six Ray Guy award winners; the award presented to the best punter in college football.
Oklahoma State and Hutton were linked up by ProKick when former Oklahoma State special teams coordinator Steve Hauser went to Australia looking for a punter. Gundy was interested after watching Dickson hit 11 punts for an average 50.9 yards in OSU’s 13-10 win over the Longhorns back in 2017.
“When I walked off the field, I told our recruiting guy, and I told our specials teams guy, who’s no longer here, ‘We need to find a punter like that,’” Coach Gundy said in his post signing day press conference.
Within a couple of weeks of Hauser’s visit, Hutton was committed.
Hutton made his official visit to Stillwater earlier this year — a trip he described as “a whirlwind” due to spending more time traveling to and from than actually being in Stillwater — and said he was blown away by the program.
“The professionalism of the whole program,” said Hutton. “Also the coaches and the players that I met. Just how well run it seems to be. There’s obviously, the facilities.. there’s nothing that compares to the college facilities in Australia. Even the professional football, yeah it’s just nowhere near it.”
Hutton said he was also really impressed by Stillwater’s community.
“Just how welcoming everyone was,” said Hutton. “The people all throughout the town were unbelievably welcoming to us.”
While Hutton and his wife Kelcie will have to leave some things behind in his hometown of Newborough — like friends, family, and their dogs — he says there are some similarities between his old home and his new one.
“It’s pretty similar to Stillwater actually in the positioning outside of the city (Melbourne),” said Hutton. “It’s mostly a farming and trade driven town really. The whole sort of layout of it, it’s nice and open, not too many people in the town so that’s good. There’s a lot of hype around the university in Stillwater which, we don’t have in our local town. But other than that it’s very local sport driven.”
Hutton had a little help in preparing himself to make the move; some advice from former Oklahoma State basketball player Mason Cox, who is now a star in the Aussie Rules Football league.
“He said — that was just before I went to Stillwater actually — I was asking him about the town actually,” said Hutton. “He said, there’s not much there, but the people really make the town. Yeah, that was exactly right. It’s a great place to be.”
Hutton won’t be completely alone in Stillwater. His wife Kelcie will be making the move with him in January, and has been very supportive of the decision.
“She’s stoked about it,” said Hutton. “After my first session with ProKick when they said this could be a genuine opportunity for me, I went home and had a chat with her to see what she thought of it. She was my biggest supporter. She said ‘yeah go for it.’ So that made everything a lot more easy.”
Along with a wife, age, and maturity, Tom will bring one other thing with him to Stillwater, that could have a major impact on Oklahoma State’s beleaguered special teams; leadership.
“I’m 28 years old, but even when I was 19, 20 I was always one of the more responsible guys on our football team,” said Hutton. “I’ve been a captain on and off for awhile for our football team. I’ve been in coaching roles and stuff like that. I actually enjoy seeing improvement in guys that I’ve coached or that I’ve helped lead. So that’s one of the things I am hoping to bring.”