When Tress Way learned the Washington Redskins had claimed him off waivers two weeks ago, he had one of those flashback moments. For the second time in his life, he would play for a team called the Redskins.
Growing up in Tulsa, Okla., he played at Union High School, whose mascot was the Redskins. To start every game, Way and his teammates would huddle and chant, “All my life, I wanted to be a Redskin! Work, work, baby, work, work!” Then they would run out of a smoke-filled teepee and onto the field.
When the Redskins claimed him on Aug. 20, news circulated quickly with his friends and family. Way said, “I must’ve got 65, ‘All my life I wanted to be a Redskin’ texts,” Way said with a laugh. He copy, pasted and replied to each of them, “Work, work, baby, work, work!”
Way aims to keep working in hopes of sticking on the Washington Redskins’ roster.
Washington represents the second NFL stop for Way. Chicago signed him as an undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma in 2013, but cut him the following August. The Bears re-signed him this past offseason, but they also drafted a punter. The two competed before Chicago waived Way on Aug. 19.
When Washington claimed Way off waivers with only 10 days left in the preseason, he didn’t really know what kind of chances he had of beating out third-year pro Robert Malone, who had already survived a summer competition with another young punter, and followed the special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica to Washington from the New York Jets.
But he figured he would give it his best shot. Way had already been in showcase mode all preseason. Bears place kicker Robbie Gould warned him that because Chicago had drafted Pat O’Donnell, Way would likely not survive roster cuts. Gould advised Way to approach every game as an audition.
“He just told me, ‘Man, you’ve just got to keep in mind that you’re just punting for 31 other teams. Keep hitting the ball the way you’ve been hitting,’ ” said Way, who was on the drive down from Chicago with his wife to his family’s home in Oklahoma when he heard from the Redskins.
Way averaged 40.4 yards per punt with Chicago, but three of his five attempts went out of bounds. He had confidence in his ability regardless when he came to Washington. He had a 39-yard punt in his first game with the team at Baltimore, and then averaged 51.5 yards on two attempts against Tampa. The strong leg and superior hang time gave him the edge over Malone, whom Washington cut last Friday.
Coach Ben told me, You’ve got 10 days. It’s not ideal, but it is a scenario. We’ve heard you’ve been hitting the ball well and we want to see what you’ve got. I had a really good 10 days, I really like it here a lot. I can’t really explain it, but I feel comfortable. I’m excited for Sunday now.”
Way now will try to remain as effective on Sunday, well aware that as a punter, he has little margin for error because there are plenty of others on the streets.
But coach Jay Gruden believes that Way has the potential to do well.
“We feel good with Tress right now. We’ll give him some shots,” Gruden said. “He came in here and did everything right and took advantage of his reps. We decided to go with him, and for Week 1 we’ll see how he does. If he does well, it’s his job. If he struggles for whatever reason then obviously, like every position, if anybody struggles you have to look to upgrade. You want to coach him and try to get him out of ruts and all that stuff but you also have to make sure you’re always on the prowl looking for people that can upgrade your team. But, we don’t anticipate that happening. We feel like he’s a confident kid with a good leg and [Kotwica] will do a good job with him.”
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