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February 3, 2012For the past three seasons Tress Way has been a constant in the Oklahoma backfield on fourth and long.
Collecting All-Big 12 honorable mention honors and national recognition along the way the Sooner co-captain will return to the gridiron next season and find himself in an added role serving as mentor to incoming freshman punter Jack Steed of Katy (Texas) Cinco Ranch.
Steed, who visited for Oklahoma's banquet weekend of Dec. 16, talked about the chance to spend a year working with Way.
"He was my host for my visit and I really liked Tress. He's definitely the type of guy that I would hang around with and I'm looking forward to being his teammate next year and learning a lot new things from him," said Steed Wednesday evening after agreeing to accept a 'greyshirt' offer from the Sooners.
"As far as I understand I'll be getting all the benefits of a scholarship player. I mean it will be tough to balance out the school work and the football but I think it's something I can do. I'm kind of used to being busy because all of my high school career I've always been in some type of sport most of the year. We actually just started baseball today."
Standing at 6-foot-5, 200-pounds Steed will head to Norman next fall looking forward to toning a skill while learning from perhaps one of the best in the business.
Last fall, Way set a school record for career punts over 50-yards (56) as well as placing 33 of 57 punts inside the opponents 20-yard line.
"When I talked to Tress he had nothing bad to say about their punt team. I mean it's very similar to the one we had in high school with some really fast gunner type position guys that could get down and cover punts really well and it sounds very similar to what I want to be a part of and it's always great for a punter to have those types of guys on the field and be surrounded by all of those phenomenal athletes," he explained.
An opportunity taken by Steed to join the Oklahoma program following an official visit to Norman and a recruiting process that saw the likes of LSU, Rice and Wyoming calling for his services.
"The weekend I took my official visit was their football banquet weekend and I had been talking to coach (Cale) Gundy awhile before that. I think they had noticed me in the spring of my junior year for the first time and they had been watching my whole senior year," said Steed.
"That was really the first time I had been up there to Norman. I've always really respected their program and liked Oklahoma because they've always been a great football team but I was impressed with the school and the football facilities," he recalled.
"I just loved their winning reputation and the standard there. I know they are always going to be a winning football team and they have the work ethic and know how to get the job done and that's something I'd love to be a part of. "
Last season Steed averaged 40-yards per punt under the tutelage of his Cinco Ranch head coach Don Clayton who punted and played quarterback at Wyoming (1975-78) before a short stint punting for the Buffalo Bills.
"Most of my tips have come from my high school head coach. He's got a background of being a punter in high school and college and he actually punted a few games with the Bills," said Steed.
"He's really taught me a lot over my high school career."
"I had some pretty big punts this year with my best being about a 56-yard average but over the whole season I probably averaged 40 or 41-yards. I expect to get that average up there though after a year of working with Tress and over the summer. I think there's a lot of room for improvement and I really think I'll start hitting the ball really well once I get up there.
Improvement usually made during the summer through countless hours of practice often spent on a football field alone.
"There are some punting camps and there are also a couple of coaches (Rocky Willingham and Chris Shaw) down here in Texas that I work with and I'll go to them when the time comes and I know that will always be a good resource to go to but for punters and kickers a lot of the work is on your own," said Steed.
"That's kind of how they make their living is working on their own and working with each other. There's usually not a kicking coach on staff."
A type of dedication and work ethic from Steed that will surely match that of his predecessor once his time comes.
"Yes it sounds like I'll be able to workout with the team and dress out for all the home games and pretty much be a part of the team and be a normal team member. I just won't be able to play in that first year. It will be a good learning experience working under Tress and I think it will be a good opportunity to improve and get ready for the year that I do play."