PITTSBURGH — Sunday will not just be any regular game for new Steelers punter Brad Wing. Wing will be putting in an NFL game for the first time since 2017. It’s a feat rarely done by anyone, let alone a punter who, before punting in the XFL this spring, had not punted in a live football game since 2019. Wing had not punted in an NFL game with the New York Giants since the end of 2017.
Wing found out about the XFL’s special teams camp through an ad he saw while scrolling on Instagram. He decided to give it a go, and there he impressed the San Antonio Brahmas, coached by former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward. The fact that he got to punt in a football game is surreal.
“I just wanted to get back into the football, saw it, and thought I would give it a shot,” Wing said. “I impressed well enough there, got a tryout here, and here I am.”
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.
But the XFL gave Wing a second chance at football. Not only did he embrace that second chance, but Wing led the entire XFL in yards per punt. It was good enough to earn a tryout with the Steelers this week. Among the four punters Pittsburgh brought in, Wing won out. Even being back in an NFL locker room is surreal for Wing, let alone getting to punt in a game.
“I loved it, man,” Wing said. “I thought my football days were over, I thought I’d never play again, so I was just really grateful to be out there playing, and having Hines Ward just made it a whole lot sweeter.”
With starting punter Pressley Harvin III out with a hamstring injury, it’s Wing’s time to shine. He has prepared for this moment all year, and it’s more than just a chance to play well with the Steelers. If things go well for him, he auditions for 31 other teams and latches on elsewhere in the NFL. The story of resilience does not happen often. It’s hard to go four years without any football action and get back into the swing of things. Yet, Wing has done just that.
“I just prepare like I’m going to punt in game every week,” Wing said. “No matter what happens, I’m ready to play, if I get that call to play. I’m always beyond ready to play.”
An Australian-born punter, the entire notion of Wing as an NFL player seems out of the box. He played Australian football, but that never worked out. He dabbled his toes into rugby. But his dad, David Wing, joined the Detroit Lions in 1990. He even gave it a shot over in NFL Europe, playing for the Scottish Claymores. So, Wing’s dad put him on a plane to the United States as a high school senior. Wing went through his senior year as an exchange student, and LSU took notice of his punting abilities.
At every step in the road, it seems like Wing should not have reached the level he has, but now he has a grand opportunity on Sunday to revitalize a career that once appeared dead fully. Just 32, Wing could have many more positive years under his belt if he proves to be a formidable NFL punter on Sunday.