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Redskins punter Tress Way is still trying to convince himself that fake punt actually happened

Quinton Dunbar and Tress Way celebrate after collaborating on a fake punt. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Has an NFL punter ever been happier over his first career passing attempt than Tress Way was after completing a 31-yard bomb to Quinton Dunbar on Sunday afternoon? It’s kind of hard to imagine, especially after listening to Way describe every detail about that play in subsequent interviews.

“Dude, dude, still today, I’m still getting texts from my friends,” Way told 106.7 The Fan on Monday. “And I’m just going, ‘Man. That actually happened.’ Like, [in] the NFL, I threw a pass. Like, are you frickin’ kidding me?”

The punter — who’s part of an insanely athletic family — got a text from his high school coach this week, giving him full permission to pretend he was a decorated high school quarterback. The truth, is that he was a scrappy infielder who “always had a good arm, nothings special,” he told Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier.

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But Way has long spent part of the Redskins walkthroughs throwing passes to long snapper Nick Sundberg, 30 or 40 yards down the field. His personal best, he said, is a 62-yard bomb. And so special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica asked him last year: If the team wanted to run a fake punt, would he rather run the ball himself or pass it?

“I go, ‘Are you kidding me? Let me throw it,’ ” Way said. “I go, ‘We’ve got the best athletes in the world on the field. I’m not gonna get hit by one of those dudes. Let me try and throw it and see what we can make happen there.’ ”

So last week — with coaches seeing something they liked on film — the team practiced the fake three times, in preparation for the Giants game.

“And believe it or not, I actually threw it three different ways,” Way said.  “The first time I lobbed it too much, is what they said. Then the second time, I threw it on the back shoulder, which I was flirting with the sideline. And then the live practice run Friday, I hit it way too much on a bullet. [Dunbar] caught it, he made a great play, but it was a little risky. You know, like if he had good coverage on him, it’d be tough. And so I can confidently say that my best throw out of all the reps came on game day.”

“The name of the play was ‘Puma,’ ” Way said. “[Kotwica] goes, ‘Hey. We got Puma. It’s going on.’ And I’m like, ‘Let’s frickin’ rage, man. Let’s do it. Who cares?’ And so I get out there. And, honestly, guys, I’m not trying to sound cool. I thought I was going to be freaking out and nervous, [but] I felt okay out there. I was like, alright, man. Let’s do this.”

Dunbar, Way said, had a one-on-one matchup on the outside with Giants defensive back Trevin Wade. This is what the Redskins had hoped for. As long as Dunbar was one-on-one with Wade, “then it was on,” Way said.

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“We had watched a lot of film on him,” Way said. “We knew he was gonna let him go a little bit. And the worst part was having to keep my head down without looking at the rush. That is a rush, man. You get out there and you’ve got these dudes coming after you and you’re not looking, looking, and then look up and launch one? Oh man. It was awesome.”

Sundberg — whom Way called an incredible blocker — turned around to watch the play; “man, sometimes you’ve just got to stop and watch greatness,” he later told the punter. Ricky Jean Francois “was all over me” on the sidelines, Way said. And Colt McCoy was laughing, “because they always make fun of the way I throw,” Way said.

“Because I throw it like a baseball, I don’t throw it like a quarterback,” Way explained. “I mean, [like] Tim Tebow, drop it way down below my waist and then sling it sideline out there. And so everybody was all fired up. I mean, dude, seriously, I came back to 29 or 30 text messages on my phone, and everybody was saying they’ve got to start putting punters in fantasy now. I would have one point, because you get one point every 25 yards for a quarterback. They were like ‘Hey dude you could get an extra point in there.”

At his parents’ watch party, his uncle started screaming at the television, asking “What’s he doing? What’s he doing?” Then his father called out “It’s a fake!!!” and “the whole garage just started freaking out.”

Having now completed his first successful fake punt, Way also did not seem to regret his choice to throw the ball rather than running it.

“I played a lot of baseball growing up, [and] I pride myself on some slow-pitch softball nowadays,” Way said. “So I would much rather throw it than run it with all those big dudes coming after me.”