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USF’s resident ‘Aussie’ now builds dreams instead of houses

Trent Schneider, a 28-year-old Australian, is living a dream as a USF punter and kicker.
USF sophomore Trent "Aussie" Schneider delivers a punt against Georgia Tech at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 8, 2018. (Photo provided by USF Athletics)
USF sophomore Trent "Aussie" Schneider delivers a punt against Georgia Tech at Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 8, 2018. (Photo provided by USF Athletics)
Published Oct. 3, 2018

TAMPA — Even before that unmistakable accent — replete with particles of Australian vernacular such as "mate" and "footy" — comes spilling out, Trent Schneider's other conspicuous feature brandishes itself.

Seems the bronze-colored hair of USF's rookie punter has receded, off the temples and toward the forehead's upper echelon. Ask his age, and the Sydney native winces momentarily.

"Twenty-eight. I can't say that too loud," he says with a chuckle.

But the tale behind his bizarre odyssey can't be proclaimed loudly enough, some might suggest. Its elements — long odds and longer journeys — never get stale, and the details are distinct. The synopsis: Schneider chose to chase a lifelong dream before time — or hang time, in this case — ran out.

He finally realized it in Tampa, more than 9,000 miles from his hometown.

"Since I was a little kid, you always have dreams of playing high-level sports," said Schneider, affectionately called "Aussie" by everyone in his locker room. "I'd imagine a lot of us here have had that. So the opportunity came, I wasn't getting any younger, so I decided why not."

The latest product of a formidable punting pipeline stretching from Australia to Santa Barbara (Calif.) City College, Schneider ranks fourth in the American Athletic Conference with a 43.1-yard average (on 18 attempts).

He has pinned five inside the 20, and his 72-yarder against East Carolina tied the USF record. He also has kicked off 18 times (with three touchbacks).

"Oh, I think he has a very interesting story," junior right tackle Marcus Norman said.

"I talk to him usually on a daily basis to understand what he does, and sometimes I talk to him about what they do over there in Australia … When I see him kick, I'm like, 'Damn he's a good kicker.'"

Stands to reason. In a country where rugby and Australian rules football (18 players to a side) dominate the sports landscape, punting is as prevalent among youths as dribbling is in America.

"I've kicked all my life, whether it's a soccer ball, rugby ball," said Schneider, who also followed American football for a time. "With your mates, you just play a bit of footy (short for Australian rules football) in the backyard. It's pretty common, to be honest."

He just never counted on making a living out of it. Instead, Schneider pursued a carpentry career after high school, eventually running his own construction outfit. Soon, screamers and grubbers and handballs (Australian-rules jargon) had been supplanted by decks, renovations and extensions.

"We used to work on multi-million-dollar houses, so we used to work for some pretty high-profile people in Australia," Schneider said. "It was good. I used to always work on the water and stuff, so it was a good time."

But he still kicked in his spare moments. When he posted a punting video of himself on Facebook, a friend spotted it and suggested he reach out to Prokick Australia, a Melbourne-based punting/kicking development academy with a history of sending students to American colleges and even the NFL.

Soon, he was training with the academy's primary coaches, Nathan Chapman (punting) and John Smith (kicking).

"Actually, I went back over Christmas one year and punted and (Schneider) was there," said Utah punter Mitch Wishnowsky, a fellow Prokick Australia alumnus and winner of the 2016 Ray Guy Award.

"He was pretty new at the time, but he had a phenomenal leg. … He just had to sort of fine-tune a few things, but when he got hold of it, he could really smack it."

Wishnowsky was part of a burgeoning Prokick Australia fraternity that had earned an AA degree — and earned the attention of four-year schools — via Santa Barbara City College. Former Rutgers punter Tim Gleeson also had gone there, as had current Washington punter Joel Whitford.

Schneider enrolled there on his own dime in 2016, averaging 38.6 yards per attempt and pinning 14 punts inside the 20.

"There's out-of-state fees and all that, and California jucos don't do scholarships, so I had to pay for all that out of my own money," he said. "But it was worth it."

The payoff arrived when Charlie Strong beckoned. Strong had developed connections with Prokick Australia, and even had one of its punters (2017 Ray Guy Award winner Michael Dickson) on his rosters at Texas.

Schneider enrolled at USF last winter. Months later, he found himself bedecked in a Bulls uniform, standing in a setting that matched the one in his dreams. The first NFL game he had ever watched on television was a Buccaneers contest from Raymond James Stadium.

"With the cool pirate ship," he said.

Today, the surreal voyage carries on.

"I've kind of done my life backwards, I guess, because everyone back home, they've all got nice careers now and stuff, and they're all finished with college," Schneider said.

"Whereas I had a career and now I'm going back to college. But I'm sure they're jealous that I get to play at Raymond James Stadium in front of all the people."

Contact Joey Knight at Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.