Utah punter Tom Hackett, a preferred walk-on from Australia, earned Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week honors following his first American football game — the Utes' 24-21 victory over BYU on Sept. 15. Hackett, a sky punt specialist, pinned the Cougars inside the 10-yard line on all three of his kicks. Deseret News beat writer Dirk Facer recently caught up with the 20-year-old from Down Under, who grew up playing soccer and is the son of a professional Australian rules football player.
Q: Earning player of the week honors in your first game is a pretty charmed way to start your career isn't it?
A: Yeah, I guess. To be honest with you I wasn't all that sure what it meant at the time. I had to ask a few of the players and they told me. After the game I was happy with my performance, first game I couldn't ask for more.
Q: Did you know anything about Utah before you got here?
A: No. I had no idea what was going on. The only thing I knew was the whole Mormon population. I had never heard of the LDS religion until I started telling people this is where I'm coming and I did some research and I love it here, to be honest with you, it's a great place.
Q: What was it like to punt the ball for the first time in game?
A: The first snap I fumbled. The stadium, Rice-Eccles, was loud. I'm not going to lie. My heart sunk. I basically picked it up and tried to do a banana kick, which is a ball in Australia that curves in the arm. Instinct took over and I ended up spiraling it and I guess it was my night. It landed on the 5-yard line. It happened to be my best punt for the game and I nearly got blocked. My heart sunk to be honest with you. It was crazy. I was running off the field and let out a bit of a scream.
Q: Any previous ties to American football? A favorite NFL team or anything like that?
A: I knew what it was back home. I didn't take any interest in it. I still don't really watch the NFL. I don't really care, to be honest about it. College, I'm concentrating on here. If I don't put all my concentration on here then I worry that maybe things won't work out for me so I just concentrate on the college game and the Pac-12. If there was an NFL team in Utah maybe, but we don't, so …
Q: What is it like to have a veteran teammate like senior punter Sean Sellwood in the program?
A: Sean has been my biggest asset. Me and him have a great relationship. We're both from out of this country. He's South African, I'm Australian. I help him when he needs help. He helps me when I need help. We get along well. There's nothing to even worry about. We get along great. It's great having him to be honest with you. Because without him I wouldn't have been able to do what I did on the weekend and maybe progress as far as I have done so far. So he's helped me out a lot.