Lachlan Edwards’ life certainly has changed since he first picked up an American football in a park in 2012 as a university student at Ballarat just west of Melbourne, Australia.
On a whim that day, the young man from Hastings, Victoria, tried punting the football. According to Edwards, a university professor at Ballarat happened by at the time and was impressed. The professor had contact numbers for people at OzPunt, an Australian punting and kicking academy geared toward finding collegiate scholarships in the United States.
“I was here six months later," Edwards said. As a special teams player for Sam Houston football teams that have made three consecutive NCAA playoff appearances during his time on the squad, he became the all-time leading punter in program history with a 42.8 career average.
On Sunday May 1, Edwards became the 19th Bearkat in Sam Houston football history to be selected in the NFL Draft. Edwards name was called in the seventh round by the New York Jets as the 235th pick in the 2016 draft. He is the first Sam Houston football player to be drafted since quarterback Rhett Bomar was selected by the New York Giants in 2009.
“I’m super excited,” Edwards said. “I always thought something like this could happen. But I’m not sure I expected it. Right after the announcement, my parents called me from Australia to congratulate me. It’s a thrill.”
Edwards was a first team All-Southland Conference selection and third team selection on the Sports Network All-America squad after leading the league with a 44.1 average during the Kats’ 2014 Southland Conference championship season. This past season in 2015 Edwards, earned All-Southland second team honors after posting a 41.5 average. Sam Houston advanced to the NCAA FCS semifinals both of those seasons.
“I said for a long time that Lachlan Edwards is the best punter in college football,” Sam Houston head coach K. C. Keeler said. “His punting has made such a big difference in the field position war for our past two NCAA semifinalist teams.”
Edwards began drawing the attention of NFL scouts after an outstanding performance in the fifth annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Carson, California, this winter. He punted twice for an average of 54.0 yards and also impressed scouts in his workouts.
“The Jets have been keeping up with me since the NFLPA Bowl,” Edwards said. “I met with their general manager and has a workout with their special teams coach. The Jets are a great organization.”
Besides holding the career record, Edwards also owns Sam Houston school marks for most punts in one season (80), most yards in one season (3,525) and best single game punting average (49.8).
Edwards was a first team All-Australian University at Ballarat in Australian Rules football in 2012. He also played rugby, cricket and ran track and field in his home country.
At 6-5, 215 pounds, Edwards is an imposing figure on the field. The first balls he ever kicked were rugby and Australian Rules Football ovals.
“The American football is completely different from Australian rules football,” Edwards said. “It’s a lot easier to hit a shank. The Aussie rules ball is larger, roughly 29 inches in circumference and shaped like a bean. The NCAA’s ball is about 28 inches in circumference at the center and 21 inches on the short sides. The sweet spot is so much smaller on the American football.”
Mostly self-taught with an American ball, Edwards recalled doing some kicking on film, taking some random phone calls around 3 or 4 a.m. Australia time from college coaches and eventually ending up at Sam Houston.
“Lachlan is a hard worker,” Keeler said. “It was a matter of learning fundamentals and the techniques and really growing into the power guy he has become. He’s also unselfish. He is extremely adept at pinning an opponent back against their own goal by having the punt killed inside the 20.”
Edwards can top out at 5.2 seconds of hang time at close to 60 yards. During his three years at Sam Houston he produced 45 punts of 50 or more yards and had 72 punts killed inside the opponent’s 20.
The Australian punter has overcome adversity during his career as well. Edwards was injured in the Bearkats’ 2014 NCAA opening round playoff victory over Southeastern Louisiana. He missed the next three games as the squad battled to the FCS semifinals.
But through hard work with the Sam Houston athletic training staff throughout the off season, Edwards came back even stronger for his senior year.
He joined a list that includes names like Timothy Flanders (football), DeMarcus Gatlin (men’s basketball), Danielle Demas (track and field), and Angela Beadle (women’s basketball). Each of these student-athletes along with so many others have overcome athletic injuries to return to play and succeed.
Sam Houston head athletic trainer Hope Parker and her staff take pride in their responsibilities for providing prevention of injuries; recognition, evaluation and aggressive treatment of injuries and rehabilitation and education.
“A lot of times as athletic trainers we develop lasting relationships with student-athletes who are dealing with long term injury situations,” Parker said. “We spend a lot of time with them. Lachlan is one of those players and it’s great to see him come back and succeed as he has this year.”
Staying healthy and rehabilitating from injury is as important as anything necessary for Sam Houston’s student-athletes to succeed at a championship level. Alumni, fans and friends who wish to help the more than 400 Bearkats receive the medical and athletic training resources they need can help continue building Bearkat Champions by supporting them online through the Athletic Training Enrichment Fund Building Champions link.
A kinesiology major, Edwards is a two-time Academic All-Southland Conference performer with a 3.27 grade point average. He officially will sign with the Jets on Thursday, May 5.
“Sam Houston is a great place and gave me a tremendous opportunity,” Edwards said. “Moving on to professional football has always been a goal. It’s an exciting time.”