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Just Kickin' It

Just Kickin' It

Winston-Salem native Andy Teasdall is earning national headlines as the punter for the Clemson Tigers.

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As an athlete at Reynolds High School, Andy Teasdall had it pretty good. He was an All-American lacrosse player who had the chance to play at the Division I level. Most kids only dream about that kind of opportunity, but Andy chose a different path. He traded a guarantee for a gamble, spurning his lacrosse offers and joining the Clemson football team as a walk-on punter. Against all odds, he’d earn the starting job in 2015 and help the Tigers win an ACC title. Now in his senior year, Teasdall chatted with us about his time at Reynolds, his decision to walk-on, and about the two plays that placed him in the national spotlight.

How was growing up in Winston-Salem?

“Winston was a great place to grow up. We had a great neighborhood with great families. I was a sports junkie, and we were always playing something—neighborhood football, basketball, baseball, soccer...just always outside with a ball. I went to high school at Reynolds and played football and lacrosse; football really just because I got burned out playing soccer. I was almost always the smallest guy on the team, but I could kick, and figured I was athletic enough to play some receiver and safety.”

When you Google your name, the first suggestion is “Andy Teasdall lacrosse.” Was lacrosse your true first love?

“Yeah, absolutely. My dad played in college, so I grew up around it. I was much better at lacrosse than I was at football. I wanted to play [lacrosse] at an ACC school with a big sports program, but only smaller D-I schools were looking at me.”

How did you end up becoming a punter at Clemson?

“Jack (my brother) went to Clemson, and I just loved it every time I came down to visit. I eventually got accepted there and decided I was going to try and walk-on as a punter. I worked out hard the entire summer to prepare. After the tryout, Coach [Dabo] Swinney told all of us that there weren’t any open spots on the team, which was pretty disappointing. But then in the spring, I got an email that said I was going to get an extended tryout, and I guess I did well enough for them to keep me around!”

What’s it like to be a walk-on on one of the best football teams in America?

“I accepted the role and never anticipated being a starter—and by no means a two-year starter. But at Clemson we’re fortunate to have great leadership and coaches that treat everyone the same, whether you’re a star like Sammy Watkins, or you’re the last walk-on. We all get the same clothes, same gear, same treatment. Coach Swinney was a walk-on at Alabama, so he understands the importance of everyone having a role.” (Teasdall was awarded a scholarship in 2015.)

You got a lot of attention for a mishap in last year’s ACC Championship (a botched punt). What happened there?

“On that play, I’m supposed to roll out and kind of feel the defense to know when to punt it. I felt everyone going right, and I guess my instincts just took over and I went running to the left. I don’t know why I did it. It wasn’t the right choice, but God never says oops…you just have to keep moving forward. I got a lot of support after the play, obviously from my parents, but my teammates really had my back as well.”

In the next game, you made one of the biggest plays of the year (a successful fake punt). Tell us about that.

“We call that play ‘UConn.’ We were in the huddle with Coach Swinney, and normally he just says ‘punt cover.’ But that time he said, ‘Run UConn.’ He said it with such calmness that it didn’t really hit me right away. We’re running out there for the play, and I realize, ‘Oh shoot, we’re running a fake…and it’s the one where I have to throw it!’ So I catch the snap and saw my teammate open and thought, ‘If I’m going to throw it, I’ve got to throw it now.’ I just tried to put it in a place for him to catch it, and luckily he did.”

The play turned you from scapegoat to national success story. The L.A. Times, ESPN, and USA Today ran articles about you. What was all the attention like?

“Well, you know you’d rather be in the headlines for good things than bad, but that’s just life and sports in general. You can’t get too low when it’s bad and too high when it’s good, though it is ironic how contrasting those two plays were and the feeling after.”

What are your plans after school?

“Good question. I’ve been trying to figure that out myself. You can never say never about the NFL…but for now, I’m very content with what sports have given me, how they’ve changed me and impacted my life. I’m certainly preparing for life without sports, but again, I just have to trust that God’s in control and keep the faith.”

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