RICHMOND — Tress Way is the only NFL player in his family, which should give him a decent level of bragging rights.
But Way is a punter, and an undrafted one at that. His wife was drafted (in a professional fast-pitch softball league). His brother was drafted (by a Major League Baseball team). His father-in-law was drafted, and actually played two seasons in MLB. His brother-in-law is still just a teenager, but would appear well on-track to be a baseball draftee himself one day. So where does that leave Way in the family athletic power rankings?
“Middle to bottom,” Washington’s second-year specialist said with a grin. “You’ve got to look at all the accomplishments that the people in my family have had. It’s pretty unbelievable.”
Way — a baseball star in high school who turned down a chance to walk onto Oklahoma’s baseball team because of his duties as a football captain — was being modest. But he isn’t wrong about his family. The Way clan was already plenty athletic, but when Tress married Brianna Turang last summer, things escalated.
Turang was a two-sport star at Oklahoma, a defender for the Sooners soccer team and star outfielder for the school’s softball team. She played in three College World Series, was a second-team All-American, and was drafted ninth overall in the 2013 National Pro Fastpitch Draft.
“So she’ll have that for the rest of her life over me,” Way noted: “that she was drafted and I wasn’t.”
Joining the Turang crew also increased Way’s family competition. There was patriarch Brian, an outfielder who played two seasons with the Seattle Mariners and was pals with Ken Griffey Jr. There was matriarch Carrie, who played in two College World Series at Long Beach State. There was new sister-in-law Carissa (who played softball at Oklahoma City University), and new sister-in law Cabria (who plays soccer at Utah) and new sister-in-law Bailee (a high school volleyball star who will play in college). And then there’s new brother-in-law Brice, a high school sophomore who was named USA Baseball’s 15U player of the year.
“He’s a freak,” Way said.
That’s not to mention Tress’s own younger brother Cole, a one-time baseball prospect who gave up the sport after an elbow injury late in high school. Instead, he went to Tulsa as a punter and kickoff specialist, but when he was done playing football, a conversation with Brian Turang rearranged his life. Turang, who runs a baseball facility in California, saw the 6-foot-11 left-hander as more pitcher than punter, and he invited Cole to come to California for a workout.
“I said if you have that itch, you might as well come down and give it a shot,” Turang said.
So the younger Way brother worked out with Turang, touching the low 90s his first time out. Then he worked out for a scouting friend of Turang’s, and then for the Royals organization, which drafted him in the 38th round last year. Cole Way now pitches for the short-season Burlington Royals, meaning there’s yet another family member who can brag to Tress about being drafted.
So take a family full of accomplished athletes from a bunch of different sports, and join them all together at big events, and you can probably guess what happens.
“I know a lot of families play wiffle ball; ours could be shown on ESPN,” Tress Way said. “I’m telling you, dude: You have not seen real wiffle ball. This is real wiffle ball.”
“We can’t even play a game of kickball without people screaming and yelling at each other,” Brian Turang said. “When Tress comes down and we play games over Christmas, it is just craziness.”
“Even if it’s dropping a tee in the pool, they’re doing full-combat tee chasing,” said Leo Way, Tress’s father. “Fourth of July we almost need a medical staff.”
Following everyone’s on-field exploits is virtually a full-time job. The Way parents have seen dozens of the Turang women’s softball games in Oklahoma. Tress has traveled to Arizona to watch Brice compete in youth tournaments, and to Oklahoma to watch Carissa, and to North Carolina to watch Cole. The Turangs went to Redskins road games in San Francisco and Arizona last year, and are planning a trip to FedEx Field this season. And they all stream each other’s games online.
They laugh, too, about Tress and Brianna’s future children, whose athletic lineage could fill a baby book. Tress’s mom, Deb, already had a mother-son conversation in which she explained that Tress will have to be supportive if his kids would rather pursue the arts than sports.
“He just looked at me,” she joked.
Her son isn’t just a punter, despite his own quips. He excelled at soccer, hockey and baseball; after one oh-fer during a baseball tournament, his father found him in the garage long after bedtime, smashing balls off a tee and into a blanket. That stroke hasn’t disappeared.
“He came into my batting cage one time and he was taking some swings with my boy, and I was watching him going, ‘You’re playing the wrong sport, man,’ ” Brian Turang said. “I couldn’t believe how much power he had. He just picks up whatever he can, and he’s phenomenal at it.”
Way has been a success in the NFL, too. After arriving midway through preseason last year, Way led the NFL in gross punting average and finished 10th in net. But put him next to the baseball and softball and soccer and volleyball stars at family reunions, and the special teams neuroses emerge.
“That’s what’s tough, man,” Way cracked. “I played everything growing up, but for the rest of my life, I’m a punter. And I love that, I’m ok with that. But I’m going against my wife who was a two-sport athlete, my little brother who’s a pitcher, her whole family who are athletes. So I have a feeling I’m just going to be ‘The Punter’ for the rest of my life.”
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