STORRS - It wasn‚Äôt so much that Luke Magliozzi was unfamiliar with American football. He was unfamiliar with America.
During the 2017 UConn football season, Magliozzi was a rookie in more ways than one.
A little over a year later, now that he‚Äôs one of the top punters in college football, the native Australian can laugh at his first foray into the game.
‚ÄúDefinitely. When I first got here I didn‚Äôt know how to put on a helmet or pads,‚ÄĚ Magliozzi said. ‚ÄúThat was pretty crazy.‚ÄĚ
What‚Äôs also rather crazy is that a 24-year-old former professional plumber and amateur Australian Rules Football player is sixth in the nation in average yards per punt at 46.5.
That‚Äôs after barely knowing what a touchback is and certainly having no idea what a safety is when he arrived in Storrs.
‚ÄúMy roommates have helped me out by playing Madden, the video game,‚ÄĚ Magliozzi says with a smile.
The PS4 and X-box training has apparently paid off.
In the Huskies‚Äô most recent game against Boise State, Magliozzi punted nine times, averaging 48 yards per boot with a long of 59.
After redshirting last season as he adjusted to life in Connecticut and with the Huskies, Magliozzi is perhaps the team‚Äôs most improved player. And he‚Äôs been a bright spot in a difficult start to the season for UConn.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs nobody that put in the time and effort that he did. It‚Äôs not surprising to me to see him have the success he‚Äôs had so far,‚ÄĚ UConn head coach Randy Edsall said.
UConn (0-2) hosts Rhode Island (2-0) Saturday at Pratt & Whitney Stadium, hoping Magliozzi‚Äôs services won‚Äôt be needed nearly as often as they have been in the first two weeks of the season.
When your opponents are averaging an unparalleled 735 yards per game, the starting field position you give them isn‚Äôt exactly a vital statistic. But if UConn‚Äôs defense ever puts things together, it could have an incredible weapon in Magliozzi.
Pinning Boise State at its own 8 and later at its own 9 didn‚Äôt matter much last weekend as the Broncos proceeded to drive 92 and then 91 yards for touchdowns.
The coaches are confident Magliozzi can bail the Huskies out of bad field position with his powerful right leg when called upon in closer games, too.
The one thing Magliozzi won‚Äôt do these days is fix pipes. He may have spent four years as a plumber after graduating from high school and before coming to America, but that part of his life is over.
‚ÄúDefinitely not. I‚Äôm retired. I put the tools away,‚ÄĚ Magliozzi said. ‚ÄúThere was an issue with the water fountain in the gym and I just ran away.‚ÄĚ
Still, the work ethic Magliozzi showed before getting his chance to play college football is still used by Edsall and his staff as evidence of the impact of hard work.
‚ÄúEvery guy on our team should go talk to Luke about what it takes to be good,‚ÄĚ Edsall said, adding later: ‚ÄúTo me, he‚Äôs a great role model for those guys.‚ÄĚ
Although he likes to poke fun at the culture shock he experienced arriving in the state and joining an American football team for the first time, Magliozzi admits the biggest adjustment he‚Äôs had to make since coming to UConn has been restarting his education.
‚ÄúProbably school itself, getting back into school. It‚Äôs been, what, four years?‚ÄĚ Magliozzi said when asked about his most difficult transition.
He admits he‚Äôs become a more dedicated student in the U.S. than he was down under.
‚ÄúDoing homework. I never used to do homework, to tell you the truth,‚ÄĚ Magliozzi said. ‚ÄúNow I want to do homework, which is crazy.
‚ÄúI told my mom, when she asks, ‚ÄėWhat are you doing?‚Äô when I call her in the middle of the night. I say ‚ÄėI‚Äôm doing homework,‚Äô and she‚Äôs like ‚ÄėWhat?‚Äô ‚ÄĚ
Magliozzi said he has been back to his home in Westmeadows, Australia, which is just outside Melbourne, only twice since leaving for UConn.
His nationality in the game of American football isn‚Äôt as novel as it once was.
Prior to considering a move to Division I college football, Magliozzi trained with Prokick Australia, a coaching program run by Nathan Chapman. Chapman is a former Australian Football League player who also had a brief career with the Green Bay Packers.
Chapman has helped produced a litany of college kickers and punters - ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got about 70 blokes over now,‚ÄĚ Magliozzi says. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a big invasion!‚ÄĚ - and has sent a handful to the NFL. Seahawks punter Michael Dickson and Eagles punter Cameron Johnston are the program‚Äôs latest kicking stars.
Magliozzi hopes for a shot at the NFL, too, though he admits when he first met with Chapman and the latter told him he‚Äôd have a chance to do such things, Magliozzi was skeptical.
‚ÄúI thought he was full of it, to tell you the truth,‚ÄĚ Magliozzi said.