Neal Brown knew Josh Growden could punt before he transferred to WVU.
The head coach learned something new about the redshirt senior punter at Oklahoma: He can throw, too.
At least, he can make short throws when the opposition is caught off guard by a fake punt, as exhibited on the final play of the first quarter in the loss to the Sooners.
“We’ve been working on that,” Brown said of Growden’s successful punt fake. “The overhand throw is not natural to him.”
That’s because up until a few years ago, Growden was accustomed to a much different type of football.
An Australia native, Growden played Aussie rules football for most of his life — even enjoying a professional stint with a club in Sydney — before switching gears and becoming a punter.
That career change of sorts set him off on a new adventure in the United States, where he punted at LSU for Les Miles before transferring to WVU over the summer to play out his final year of eligibility.
Through seven games as a Mountaineer, Growden has placed 12 punts inside the enemy 20-yard line. Up until that defeat at Oklahoma, West Virginia’s punt unit hadn’t allowed a return yard in the previous five games — a stat that thrilled Brown.
“Coach Brown sets a high standard. He doesn’t want any return yards,” Growden said. “Our coverage team has been doing great. Really proud of where we’re at at the moment.”
Growden has received some notable recognition in his short time with the Mountaineers. After the Texas game, he was named one of “Ray’s 8” — a listing of the nation’s top eight punters of the week as selected by the Ray Guy Award committee.
Growden was also recognized by WVU earlier this season for his leadership in community service. When he’s not practicing or playing, Growden is often found volunteering at schools and hospitals in the Morgantown area.
“I’ve been able to get so much out of my time in America, so being able to give back [is important],” Growden said. “I feel like children and education are so important. They’re the future, and if you get the children right with good values and stuff early, they’re set for the rest of their life.”
Growden said he’s soaking up his experience in the United States. He’s enjoying the pageantry associated with college football, as well as American food — though he admits he hasn’t had a pepperoni roll yet.
Growden discusses his college football journey during an interview this week on a new episode of The Neal Brown Show. Check your local listings for more details on when you can watch the segment in your hometown.