After dealing with substance issues, former Pittsburgh Steelers punter Brad Wing is reviving his football career with the San Antonio Brahmas of the XFL. Wing, who at 32 is the oldest player on the team, was voted a captain by the players. His 47.8 yards per punt led the XFL, with a long of 72 yards.
Wing thought his football career was over after the New York Giants released him in 2018 due to a failed drug test. The substance issues, which dated back to his college career at LSU, took over his life and football was an afterthought. Wing entered treatment and has been sober ever since.
“I lost my job in the NFL because of mental illness…the stigma is real…,” Wing tweeted in July of 2020.
According to Chris Vannini of The Athletic, Wing found the XFL through an Instagram ad and gave it a shot, despite not even punting in a few years. The Australian was selected with the 23rd pick in the Specialists Phase of the 2023 XFL Draft by the Brahmas. It was the exact team that Wing wanted to land with also as he wanted to play for Steelers legend Hines Ward. Wing’s only season with the Steelers was in 2014, but I’m sure he heard all about Ward.
“I love (Ward) and he knows I’ll show up and work for him as long as he gives me an opportunity,” Wing said. “I’m grateful for that.”
In training camp, Ward asked Wing to tell his story of resilience and redemption to the team. Every player and coach in the room was in tears by the end of it.
“It’s never fun standing up there and telling your darkest, worst secrets about yourself, but I knew a lot of the guys had been struggling as well, like getting cut or losing a job,” Wing said. “We all think, what do I do now? Since that day, I felt so much closer to everybody. I’m so grateful to Coach for that opportunity.”
At the end of the day, the purpose of the XFL is to create a pathway to the NFL. Sometimes all it takes is an opportunity, and Wing is running away with his. If Wing continues to average 47.8 yards per punt and nail 72-yarders, he could get back on an NFL roster. A situation that once didn’t seem possible.