It’s been a busy few months for freshman punter Michael Dickson.
Born in Sydney, Australia, he’s had to adjust to life at an American university. He also takes responsibility for the punting duties at one of the nation’s most-watched football programs.
“It’s crazy — it’s going by so quick,” Dickson said. “Just relaxing [is difficult]. There’s just so much going on.”
Dickson comes from a place where football means somethig different. In Australia, football refers to Australian Rules Football, a sport similar to rugby. Dickson played Rules Football for several years before he lost interest and he searched for an alternative.
“I heard about [Australian punter] Sav Rocca coming to the NFL a couple years ago,” Dickson said. “I wasn’t enjoying [Australian football] too much anymore. I thought I can kick and should come over here and give it a go.”
Dickson’s journey to Texas started when his Australian football coach put him in touch with Texas defensive backs coach Chris Vaughn. Texas’ coaching staff expressed the need for a punter, and Dickson jumped on the opportunity ,despite not knowing much about the University.
“When I started looking up [Texas], I was amazed,” Dickson said. “When I came here on my visit, I just couldn’t believe it. I remember driving down the road and seeing the stadium. … I just thought, ‘This is crazy.’”
Dickson initially struggled during training camp. He said it took him a while to feel comfortable during practice. Yet he found his groove as he gained more experience and ended up winning the starting job position.
Texas fans learned Dickson’s name during his fourth game after he botched a punt in the final minutes against No. 12 Oklahoma State. The mistake set up the Cowboys for the game-winning field goal. Dickson took heat from both the fans and the media following the debacle.
“It was pretty tough — I’m not going to lie,” Dickson said. “I was down for a couple of days, but I just had to get over it and punt the ball. I just wanted to get back out there.”
Dickson’s teammates didn’t blame him for the miscue. Instead, they rallied around him and encouraged him to put the mistake behind him. So far, he’s answering the call, averaging around 40 yards per punt since the drop.
Dickson shined against Kansas State, booming punts of 45 and 51 yards in the fourth quarter. He also made highlight reels earlier in the fourth quarter while scooping the ball off the ground after a high snap and kicking it rugby-style on the run. The ball rolled deep inside Kansas State territory and pinned the Wildcats inside their 10-yard line. The performance earned Dickson honors as the Big 12’s Special Teams Player of the Week.
“Just to watch him develop these last three weeks after dropping the ball,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “He’s like, ‘Coach, I was not going to let what happened to me against Oklahoma State [happen again]. I was going to get that ball off somehow.’”
Dickson will try to keep adjusting and improving in his last five games as a freshman. He’s still a young player, and miscues are expected. Even so, the Longhorns are confident that he will learn from his chaotic start and become a key player on the team.
“He has all the ability in the world as a punter,” senior wide receiver Marcus Johnson said. “He’s probably been through it all in his first couple games. … He’s learned a lot in a short amount of time.”