Aussie David Lonie fitting in well as Cal's new punter

Sept. 9, 2004

By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - David Lonie had never considered kicking a football.

He preferred the non-traditional daredevil athletic pursuits, spending histime surfing, spear fishing, water skiing, snowboarding and riding horses. Hetraveled the world doing them.

Not until he came from his native Australia to coach at a summer sports campin the United States in 1999 did playing football became an option.

Now, he's the popular new punter for No. 12 California.

It was at the camp that he met a punter headed to Drake on scholarship.

'I was out-kicking him,' Lonie said with a smile this week as the GoldenBears prepared for their home opener Saturday against New Mexico State.

The camp director noticed, and suggested Lonie pursue it further by going toCincinnati to work out with his friend Doug Pelfrey, then with the Bengals.

It didn't take much convincing. We're talking about somebody who's seeminglyup for anything.

Lonie became hooked. It certainly helped that he's 6-foot-6 and 200 pounds -almost massive proportions when it comes to punters.

With his California good looks and his speech peppered with trademark Aussiephrases such as 'No worries,' Lonie fits in perfectly in the zany Calcommunity.

Back home, he played soccer, water polo and competed in track and field. Hemodeled for a golf magazine, and worked all sorts of odd jobs to make money tofund his trips - construction, security and selling skis. He's been to about adozen countries, going solo and making friends along the way.

It hasn't taken him long here.

His teammates refer to him as Zoolander, Thunder from Down Under andAus-struck.

'It's just a good vibe,' Lonie said of being around the Golden Bears.'The guys are down to earth. It's laid back, similar to Australia.'

Third-year California coach Jeff Tedford - no-nonsense, always intense andbasically the opposite of his punter - was so interested in Lonie that he tooka 34-hour round-trip flight to Australia just to meet his parents for 15minutes. Lonie, also highly sought after by many other schools, wasn't eventhere at the time.

Tedford likes Lonie's maturity and life experience, and the fact he'salready done so many interesting things.

'I don't think players have to be so shallow and only think aboutfootball,' Tedford said. 'He's a more mature young man because he's welltraveled and has been making his own money for so long. I told him he's goingto provide leadership for this team.'

Lonie is 25 years old, but isn't getting much razzing for it because 'halfthe guys don't even know,' he said. He is studying education and youthculture.

He had verbally committed to Ohio State two years ago, but didn't qualifyacademically because some of his course work from Australia didn't comply withNCAA standards. So, Lonie enrolled at Ellsworth Community College in IowaFalls, Iowa. He declined a chance to join the Canadian Football League becausehe didn't want to burn his college eligibility.

He averaged 41.8 yards per punt last season as a sophomore and converted 21of 25 PATs - the ones he missed were all bad snaps. He converted 11-of-19field-goal tries.

For now, Lonie is the starting punter. But his predecessor at Cal, TylerFredrickson, punted, kicked off and booted field goals. Lonie's role couldgrow.

His teammates wouldn't mind. They liked Lonie right away during spring ball,then he played well in the Bears' 56-14 win at Air Force last week.

'He's a real good guy,' linebacker Joe Maningo said. 'Your basic firstimpression is he's just a fun-loving person. He carries it onto the field. Hisskills are tremendous. His placement really helps out the special teams anddefense.

'It's crazy how the guy just came in. He was punting it from one sidelineinto the stands on the other side. I've never seen a punter do that. It showshis leg strength.'

Lonie hopes to take that strength to the NFL, and he wouldn't be the firstAussie to do it.

Darren Bennett punts for the Minnesota Vikings, and Aussie Nathan Chapmanwas cut by Green Bay last month.

Those who know Lonie wouldn't put it past him.

'I'm a quick learner,' he said.

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