September 28, 2012

Wake's first Mate

The first thing one notices when talking to Wake Forest punter Alexander Kinal, nicknamed Mate, is his strong accent.

Kinal, a 6-foot-4 and 210-pound redshirt freshman, is from South Adelaide, Australia. He grew up playing Australian Rules football.

"The positions I played back at home were really the hard-contact positions, so every time you went for the ball you were colliding with people all the time," Kinal said. "At the same it's good, because I can move on a Sunday. It's also good fun to get in there and get a little rough."

Kinal, who also participated in martial arts and water polo as a kid, redshirted last season, learning the basics and fundamentals of punting.

In the pre-season Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe joked that they had to help Kinal learn how to catch snaps and put on his uniform last season.

"When I came in here last year I knew I could kick the ball," Kinal said. "I couldn't really feel what a good kick felt like yet. It's not so much what happens with your legs, but what happens with your body, positioning and all that sort of stuff."

"The last four or five months I'm starting to really feel what I have to do and understand it's not how much you do it's how you do it. I've been cutting down the actual full reps that you do and just working on the little things. That's been the biggest learning process. That's what really helped me out, just focusing on the little things and letting it all happen."

He has settled in nicely at punter after beating out the incumbent starter Alex Wulfeck in fall camp. He has punted 31 times this season for an average of 39.4 yards per punt, with a long of 58 yards, and has pinned the opposition inside its own 20-yard-line 13 times and only two touchbacks.

"I think he'd rather play linebacker than be the punter, which is kind of cool," Grobe said. "With his Australian Rules [football] background I think he'd like to be out there mixing it up. I see him sometimes when we've got some dead time in practice where … you can't punt for two hours, you can't catch snaps for two hours, you can't drop the ball for two hours. I look at him at different times during practice and he's watching the inside drill and he's watching the team stuff and you can kind of tell there's a little that he'd like to be in there doing more."

"He's the kind of guy you like. He's a guy that is a punter, but you can just tell he wishes he was able to do more than punt. He's a good athlete."

The transition from Australia to Wake Forest and Winston-Salem area have relatively smooth for Kinal, who is majoring in Economics. Kinal said he likes how Wake is a small campus, making it easy for him to find his way around.

"Living in a city is living city," Kinal said. "Living in a city all around the world that speaks English it's usually not too bad. The biggest thing is being able to do what I want to do when I need to do it, like getting things done in regards to transportation and all that sort of stuff. If I need to go to the shop and get some sort of stuff I can't just take my car. I have to ask my friend if I can borrow their car or if they can go with me."

"Another one of the things I was really close with my mates and my family back at home. I was really close with them. It can be tough at times, but the good thing is I'm friends with everyone on this team. They're all easy to get along with. You get along with everyone on here. There's not a bad person on this team, so it's made it a lot easier. That adjustment has been a lot easier to make, because of the friendly personalities we have."

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