Way ahead of the pack: Redskins punter leads NFL

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ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Tress Way is fully aware that his name sometimes looks like a misprint.

Or a street address in a housing development.

"I've heard 'em all," he said. "It doesn't fail. Every stadium I go to, somebody always goes 'No Way!' I'm like, 'Got it. Never heard that one.'"

These days, Way can laugh right along. The Washington Redskins rookie, who was claimed off waivers near the end of preseason, is the top punter in the NFL and has a good shot at being the team's only representative when the Pro Bowl announcements are made Tuesday.

"I'm a rookie right now. I survived my first year in the NFL. I hit the ball pretty well," Way said. "If I don't go to the Pro Bowl, it's not going to be the end of the world for me. If I go, it's going to add to another year of 'Oh, my gosh, how did this all happen in one year?'"

Way is averaging 47.7 yards. Not bad for someone who considered quitting the game to take a job selling medical supplies in his native Oklahoma when the Chicago Bears cut him last year during preseason.

But he stuck with it and re-signed with the Bears in January. For good measure, they waived him again this year. The Redskins, unsettled at the punting position, claimed him off waivers in late August, giving him his first sense of truly belonging in the NFL.

"Somebody went out of their way to say, 'Hey, we want you.' It was that feeling of almost expecting to be good," he said. "A lot of people would think that it's pressure, but when I got brought in, it was a cool feeling because everyone was expecting me to maybe win the job, maybe to be an incredible punter."

Way had visited Washington for a tryout during the 2013 regular season, although it really wasn't a tryout — they just wanted their return men to work with a left-footed punter because the next opponent had a lefty.

The visit left an impression on him, though, and it's worth noting that his high school team was also called the Redskins. There's therefore no doubt where he stands on the debate over the team's name.

"The name fits all right with me," he said.

Way has made one significant adjustment to his punting technique as a pro. He dropped the ball closer to his foot while playing for the University of Oklahoma because of prevalent windy conditions.

Bears kicker Robbie Gould suggested a higher drop — NFL stadiums are more sheltered from the wind — and the change resulted in a much better average hang time.

Way also knows how to endear himself in the locker room. He was so impressed with Akeem Davis' work on punt coverage that found out the name of Davis' favorite candy bar — white chocolate Kit Kats — and bought his teammate a generous supply.

Way's solid season has been a rare bright spot in an otherwise dismal season for the Redskins (4-11). When coach Jay Gruden was asked about Way, Gruden joked: "Am I allowed to talk positive on this?"

"Tress has been outstanding. Obviously he was a great find for us," Gruden said. "He has been everything, more than we expected."


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