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This Aussie loves shuffle off to Buffalo

Peter Fardon gets it in his head that he's good enough to punt for a Division I college. Only trouble is, Fardon's in Brisbane, Australia, which is more than a wee bit off the standard recruiting trail.

So Fardon gets a mate to shoot some footage of him kicking a football, burns a bunch of DVDs and ships them off to some 50 or 60 U.S. institutions along with a cover letter explaining the wild idea that's bouncing around in his head.

Maybe 15 or 20 schools respond, most of them saying, "Thanks. We'll keep your DVD in our files," which is the polite cover for, "You're kidding, right?" But three schools show an interest and from the standpoint of accomplishment they're as diverse as it gets: Southern Cal, Pittsburgh and the University at Buffalo.

"UB, I knew the punter was graduating," Fardon said. "And then I did a little bit of research on the coaches, but I didn't know that Coach [Turner] Gill was such a fabulous player and all the prestige that comes with him, and where UB has come from. I didn't know that USC was one of the top teams in the nation. And to be honest it was probably a good thing because I didn't get influenced by anything other than the best thing for me and my decision on both football and academics as well.

"I looked at UB. They had a good business school. Study international business, that was the interest. It was a good fit for me and to be honest I don't regret it at all. The guys here have been great, the team's been great, the coaches have been fantastic, all my teachers, the general community, everybody that I've spoken to. It's just made it such an easy transition for me that I couldn't see myself or couldn't even imagine myself anywhere else on the outside."

Fardon was invited to spring practice as a walk-on and impressed to where UB offered him a scholarship. Say hello, boys, to our 26-year-old freshman.

Think about it. Fardon had never punted wearing pads. He'd never faced the heat of the rush. He'd never had to take delivery from a long snapper. Australian Rules Football was his background, playing American football his long-time fantasy.

"I was always interested in the game," Fardon said. "And then we had a few guys from our own professional leagues make it to the NFL: Ben Graham with the Jets, Sav Rocca with the Eagles, Darren Bennett with the Vikings and Mat McBriar with the Cowboys."

It's been a bumpy ride but Fardon's acclimating. He upped his average to 38.3 yards by averaging 41 yards a kick, with a long of 53, in UB's last outing, a loss to Central Michigan.

"I've had sort of a shaky start I think in terms of what I know is my best," he said. "It does take a lot of getting used to. They make it look really easy in the pros but it's nowhere near as simple as that. I thank the coaches for having the patience for sticking with me so far. I know that I can improve and that's what I'm trying to do with each game."

Fardon fits the stereotype of the free-spirited Australian. He's big on surfing (uh, no Southern Cal?). He's also big on snowboarding and took a six-month vacation during those eight years between high school and college to board his way around Canada. Now he's hitting the books and punting the football and laughing at life's unpredictability.

"If three years ago somebody said I was going to be living in Buffalo, playing football, studying, I would have told them they were crazy," Fardon said. "But you never know what is going to happen. I'm certainly not closed off to any ideas as to where I might be in the future. But for right now I'm very happy in Buffalo."

e-mail: bdicesare@buffnews.com

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