In his first season with the Washington Redskins, undrafted punter Tress Way has gone from being on the outside looking in, to the cusp of etching his name into Redskins history.
A Tulsa, Okla., native, Way's thunder-foot first took center stage for the Oklahoma Sooners, where he left as the school's all-time leader in punting average at 44 yards per kick. After pinning 91 punts inside the 20 and booming 71 punts of at least 50 yards, Way knew the potential was there, but there was much work to be done.
"I was really raw whenever I was in college," Way said. "I just had a strong leg. I've been blessed with a strong leg and that's really all I had. I didn't really know what I was doing."
Undrafted in 2013, Way went to training camp with the Chicago Bears, where he had the chance to learn under veteran and Pro Bowl punter Robbie Gould.
In Chicago, Gould helped mold what has become statistically the NFL's top punter this season in way, who through six weeks is averaging 51.2 yards per punt for the Redskins. Way said Gould would remind him that. "You're a Pro Bowl punter. You're a top-5 NFL guy. You got keep working. You got to stay read, keep bettering yourself, keep learning, keep growing."
"Robbie Gould really helped refine me, get me in a routine and rhythm and I actually know what I'm doing now," he said.
After being cut by Chicago during the 2013 preseason, the Bears once again came calling and brought Way back to the Windy City for the 2014 preseason. On Aug. 18, however, he was released, but two days later was inking his deal with the burgundy and gold.
He made an immediate impact In the team's final two preseason games, booting punts of 51 and 59 yards to lock up his spot as the team's punter.
Now six games in to his first season, Way leads the league in punting and has dropped seven kicks inside of the opponent's 20-yard line. With four games registering a punt of at least 60 yards, he's one game shy of becoming the first Redskins punter to record a boot of 60 yards five games in a single season since Matt Turk did it in 1998.
Not only is the former All-Big 12 player on the cusp of setting that Redskins mark, he's just .2-yards off of Redskins-legend Sammy Baugh's franchise record 51.4 yard-per-punt season average set back in 1940.
"It's really been going good," Way said. "Working with Coach Ben [Kotwica], the directional kick, really my biggest goal is to get it with a good distance, a good hang time."
Along with leading the league in yards-per-punt, the Redskins' coverage teams are tied for eighth in net punting average (41.9). Way believes that it's more a testament to the players around him rather than his own personal ability.
"Our guys are doing an incredible job of covering," Way said. "I bomb it down there. That's my job, but these guys cover and we've got like almost a 42-yard net which is just awesome. That has really nothing to do with me."
Way's coordinator, Ben Kotwica, said he's certainly been impressed with his 24-year-old rookie punter — both with his kicking abilities and his attention to detail.
"I'm excited for him," Kotwica said. "He's a good young guy. He's working hard. He's accepted his coaching. Any tips that you give him he applies it, and so I think the arrows point up for Tress."