Max Duffy sat comfortably at his table. A few feet away, a swarm of media circled Florida Atlantic tight end, Harrison Bryant.
Duffy, the punter for the Kentucky Wildcats is a finalist for the Ray Guy Award. He was not the main focus of the media storm during Wednesday’s interview sessions at the Home Depot College Football Awards, but he had a story to tell.
“I get the best tickets to the game every single week, getting to sit on the sideline and just take it all in,” Duffy said. “Just to be able to play and compete again, I guess on the small scale as a punter, is good.”
Duffy, who is the oldest player on his team at 26 years young, had already built quite the footballing resume prior to enrolling at the University of Kentucky.
Back in his native Australia, Duffy played at the professional level, representing Fremantle Football Club in the Australian Football League. If you have never seen or heard of Australian football, I suggest you watch and enjoy the madness. To put it simply, Duffy’s life on the field became much more relaxed when he made the transition into American football.
“I don’t have to do much,” Duffy joked. “I used to run about 10 miles back home in each game. So, to run about a quarter of a mile, each game, if that, is awesome. I just get to run on [the field], kick the ball, jog off and enjoy the game.”
Don’t get it twisted, though, Duffy still enjoys the sport’s physical side. Earlier this season, the punter made a touchdown-saving play in the Wildcats’ 50-7 win over the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks.
“I got to make a tackle this year, which got the juices flowing again,” he said. “That was awesome.”
This season, Duffy has been superb. He averages 48.6 yards-per-punt, with a season-long of 70-yards. His performances on the field earned him a spot on this season’s All-SEC Coaches’ Second Team.
But there is another key element in being a collegiate athlete: academics. Off of the field, Duffy says the unique experience of studying while competing is an enjoyable one. This is something many international athletes come to the United States for: the opportunity to continue their playing careers while furthering their education.
“That’s been the main thing for me. When I got drafted back home, I wasn’t able to study at the same time, being a professional athlete,” Duffy said. “To come here and be able to get both things going at the same time really helps me keep a balance. If I’m ever having a bad day, I just jump into the books and make sure to get my schoolwork done.”
Duffy is entering his master’s program in sports psychology. When asked about some of the greatest memories, he will one day tell his grandkids; the junior took a couple of seconds to gather his thoughts, ultimately referencing the importance of his degree.
“Being able to make the finals of [the College Football Awards] is awesome. I never thought I’d be able to achieve that,” he said. “Hopefully, my master’s degree
me enough money where I’ll have a nice house for [my grandkids] and enough toys for them to play with because they won’t know what granddad did.”
The junior will be hoping to win the nation’s top award for punters but has plenty more to play for in 2019. Following the awards ceremony, Duffy and his teammates will hope to lift some silverware when they take on Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl, one of five games that will take place on New Year’s Eve.